Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Editorial Note: RIAA College Litigations Experiencing a Bumpy Ride

Editorial note:

The RIAA's juggernaut against colleges, started in February of this year, seems to be having a bumpier and bumpier ride. The normal game is to bring an ex parte lawsuit (i.e. no one other than the RIAA knows about it), and without any opposition submit an ex parte motion for an ex parte discovery order authorizing service of a subpoena to get the name and address of the students or staff who might have used a certain IP address.

But the normal game seems to be getting disrupted here and there.

A Virginia judge threw the RIAA's motion out the window, saying that it was not entitled to such discovery, in a case against students at the College of William & Mary.

A New Mexico judge denied the application on the ground that there was no reason for it to be ex parte, in a case involving University of New Mexico students. He ultimately required the RIAA to serve a full set of all of the underlying papers, for each "John Doe" named, and to give the students 40 days in which to review the papers with counsel, and make a motion to quash if they chose to do so.

In a stunning development, the Attorney General of the State of Oregon made a motion to quash the RIAA's subpoena on behalf of the University of Oregon, on grounds which are fully applicable to every case the RIAA has brought to date: the lack of scientific validity to the RIAA's "identification" evidence. The motion is pending as of this writing.

And students have themselves made motions to vacate the RIAA's ex parte orders and/or quash supboenas, in cases involving George Washington University, Boston University, North Carolina State University, University of South Florida, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Oklahoma State University. The Ohio University and University of Tennessee motions have been denied; the University of South Florida motion was granted; the others are pending.

One very notable development among the student motions is that the North Carolina State motion was made jointly by seven (7) of the students together. I.e. they banded together and pooled their resources. The possibility of students organizing is the RIAA's worst nightmare, and cuts across its "divide and conquer" strategy.

And of course the RIAA has given Harvard University a wide berth, in view of the statements of law school professors there telling the RIAA to "Take a Hike" and urging Harvard to put all of its available resources, including its legal clinics, into fighting the RIAA if and when it visits Harvard.

Much combat remains, but the RIAA's campaign is no longer a hot knife cutting through butter on the nation's campuses.


Commentary & discussion:
Ars Technica

Keywords: digital copyright online 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


Anonymous said...

Note: The RIAA is also giving a wide berth around university/college(s) who pay the "protection fee" of an "RIAA Approved" filtering system.

Has the RIAA been suing anyone except college students since February 2007, or is this their exclusive prey now?

Unknown said...

Just a thought... If, in passing, defendants also demonstrate that it is relatively easy to outwit the 'RIAA approved' filtering system then with a bit of luck these cases can also bring down Audible Magic and give Dr Doug the headache he deserves.

Reluctant Raconteur said...


I agree, your postings are coming much more frequently, and most of them are slowing them down. And they have moved from Brooklyn.

But sadly,not all of them. I am afraid that as long as they are fought at the local level, we are going to get inconsistent and even contradictory rulings.