Thursday, January 31, 2008

Louisiana Judge says no to RIAA's request for default judgment without a hearing

In a Lafayette, Louisiana, case, Warner v. Lewis, the defendant defaulted.

The Judge, however, has refused to rubber stamp the RIAA's request for a default judgment, and has instead ordered the RIAA to prove it is entitled to a judgment, at an evidentiary hearing scheduled for February 14th.

District Judge Tucker L. Melancon denied the RIAA's ex parte, unopposed, motion to cancel the hearing.

[Ed. Note. It is the norm, in tort -- as opposed to contract -- cases, to require such an evidentiary hearing before awarding a judgment. Copyright infringement is a tort. The RIAA, however, has somehow been able to convince most judges to dispense with such a hearing, and to just rubber stamp the RIAA's request for a default judgment based on written papers, thus saving the RIAA thousands of dollars in each default judgment case. Judge Melancon, in declining to follow the RIAA's procedure, is following correct procedure.]

December 14, 2007, Order Setting February 14, 2008, default judgment hearing*
RIAA's January 25, 2008, Ex Parte Motion to Vacate Hearing*
January 28, 2008, Order Denying RIAA Motion*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

Keywords: digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property






7 comments:

Anonymous said...

If these torts have been filed and rubberstamped without the proper procedure, couldn't the judgment be overturned afterwards due to failure to follow procedure, or failure to present evidence?

I'd think that the resulting judgment would be considered to be given completely on hearsay, given that anyone can print out a list of IP addresses and say that they're identifying someone.

Anonymous said...

Upon closer inspection of their motion for waive the the evidentiary hearing, they apparently dropped the telephone number analogy for a postal address analogy. This is just as shaky as the phone theory, since multiple people can live at an address, or someone could have their mail routed to a different address than their own.

ZH
(forgot to tag the first post)

Anonymous said...

[Ed. Note. It is the norm, in tort -- as opposed to contract -- cases, to require such an evidentiary hearing before awarding a judgment. Copyright infringement is a tort. The RIAA, however, has somehow been able to convince most judges to dispense with such a hearing, and to just rubber stamp the RIAA's request for a default judgment

Ray, did you by chance go to a different law school, and face a different bar examination, than all of these other judges – excluding, of course, the judge in the instant case here?

This case seems like an excellent for an amicus curie to ensure that the judge is fully aware of all the issues relevant to the incomplete, illegal, illogical, and plain outright faulty "evidence" that the RIAA routinely presents. Starting with the very first line of the RIAA motion that states in Background: Users of peer-to-peer networks who distribute files over a computer network can be identified by using Internet Protocol ("IP") addresses because of the unique IP address of the computer distributing the files…Of course, actual "users" can never be identified in this manner.

And from the SafeNet declarations you also posted today, in the instant case motion the RIAA contends: When available, MediaSentry invokes this feature of a peer-to-peer program, just as any other user could do… SafeNet has already declared that the programs and methods they use are a result of tens of thousands of man-hours over five years of effort to develop. Doesn't the RIAA even read the declarations of their investigators?

XK-E

Ray Beckerman said...

Dear Anonymous XK-E. Would you do me a favor and put the MediaSentry comment in the MediaSentry post as well, because I think our comment section is about to be visited by the Slashdot community.
Thanks.

Ronald Coleman said...

I have obtained default judgments for trademark infringement and copyright infringements in various different federal courts. There is no such "norm." Indeed in cases where the defendant does not appear, it is common for default judgments and inquests to be made entirely on the papers. Other judges want to see a face in court. There is no legal rule nor any particular reason why one approach is better than the other in all cases.

Ray Beckerman said...

Dear Ronald, In my view it is an error for a judge to grant a default judgment in a tort case. There is no legal authority anywhere for doing it.

I can't expect you to agree with me, since your clients appear to have benefitted from the same error.

Nor can I expect you to admit that it is unusual.

Neither is there any legal authority for treating a copyright infringement or trademark infringement case any different than any other tort case.

Ray Beckerman said...

Dear Ronald, if you have any authority for granting written default judgments in tort cases, and for waiving the plaintiffs' obligation to produce competent evidence to support his right to relief, I would be curious to see it. If you have authority in the statutes or the Federal Rules, I'll eat my words.