Tuesday, July 18, 2006

RIAA Case Against Mother Dismissed With Prejudice; Court May Award Attorneys Fees Against RIAA

In Capitol Records v. Foster, in federal court in Oklahoma, a case against a mother -- whose only connection to the alleged filesharing was that she was the person who paid for the internet access -- has been dismissed with prejudice.

Faced with the mother's motion for leave to file a summary judgment motion dismissing the case against her, and awarding her attorneys fees, the RIAA made its own motion for permission to withdraw its case.

The Court granted the motion and let the RIAA drop its case.

The Court went on to hold that the defendant, Ms. Foster, is the "prevailing party" under the Copyright Act and is therefore eligible for an award of attorneys fees.

The Court then indicated that it would decide the attorneys fees award question upon receipt of a motion for attorneys fees.

July 13, 2006, Order Dismissing Case and Finding Defendant to be Eligible for Award of Attorneys Fees against Plaintiffs*

For background of the case see:
Amended Answer and Counterclaims*

* Document available online at Internet Law & Regulation

The attorney for Ms. Foster is Marilyn D. Barringer-Thomson, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Steve Gordon, a New York-based entertainment attorney, formerly in house counsel at SONY, and the author of the well known book on digital music "The Future of the Music Business", had this comment on Capitol v. Foster:

"This case demonstrates weakness in RIAA's cases in general. If they cannot back up their claims of infringement with legally required evidence, this could affect all their cases and encourage more defendants to fight back -- especially if, as in this case, the court awards attorneys fees for the defendant."

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


CodeWarrior said...

It's great she is getting attorney's fees, but I think there should be a punitive action against the RIAA for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Bacardi said...

Great information. Someone will submit this to digg and The Register for certain so I hope that your server can handle a million hits.

raybeckerman said...

Yes this is indeed good news. I hope that the judge awards Ms. Foster all of the legal costs and attorneys fees she was forced to incur in defending this frivolous lawsuit.

Name: Sally Hawkins said...

I was trying to access the order from the link on your site but there appears to be an error - the file is opening but I all I can see/print is a grey page.

great result - lets hope to see more of these!

eclectica said...

sal, you need to have the Adobe pdf reader installed on your computer.

click here for the Adobe pdf reader

raybeckerman said...


The order got "slash-dotted" last night so the server may have been having trouble keeping up with it.

Best regards


Randy Cadenhead said...

The Foster case is getting some additional net play. See http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060713-7257.html which got picked up at Redit.com.

raybeckerman said...

Hi Randy, wonderful to hear from you. Thanks for keeping up with my blog.

Dear 'dreddsnik'. That is a somewhat overly negative analysis you quoted from the slashdot commenter. The RIAA was continuing the suit against the mother for 'contributory' and 'vicarious' liability, rather than withdrawing it. But once they were faced with an impending motion by her for summary judgment and attorneys fees, they backed down, hoping to avoid an attorneys fee award. The judge ruled 'sorry, your withdrawing the case after pursuing this lady for a year and a half does NOT exempt you from liability for attorneys fees. When I get an attorneys fee motion in my hands I'm going to take a serious look at it.' As to whether the judge will or will not grant attorneys fees, that remains to be seen, but I can only say that judges usually try to discourage, rather than encourage, additional motion practice. In reading the judge's decision I didn't see any attempt at all to discourage Ms. Foster from bringing on the motion, and so I suspect that the judge is expecting to grant an attorneys fee award. The most likely scenario is that the RIAA will now reach a settlement with a gag order -- paying Ms. Foster X dollars but requiring her and her attorney to keep it secret -- in order to prevent this precedent from becoming even more perilous to their litigation juggernaut.

raybeckerman said...

They got a default judgment against the daughter.

raybeckerman said...

The daughter is not a minor.

Most likely they will not be able to collect it.

No the parents would not be responsible. If they could have been held responsible the RIAA would not havae dropped the case.

I agree with you that in Priority Records v. Brittany Chan the RIAA was just quietly giving up, having gotten itself into enough trouble in Port Huron, Michigan. (In another case there was testimony that their attorney tried to improperly influence the testimony of a teenager.).

There is a general principle in copyright law that 'making available' is not enough to make out a copyright infringement case.

I don't know of any case in which the RIAA has gotten beyond the summary judgment phase, except the BMG v. Gonzalez case where downloading was admitted.

Hopefully Capitol v. Foster will encourage more defendants to fight back, and more lawyers to jump into the fray.