Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Judge Trager decides to stay in control of all RIAA cases in Brooklyn court, denies motion for random judicial assignment, calls settlements equitable

Judge Trager has denied the motions by defendants in two Brooklyn cases, Maverick v. Chowdhury and Elektra v. Torres, for random judicial assignment of RIAA cases.

Judge Trager held that the cases should all continue to be assigned just to himself and Magistrate Judge Levy.

In his decision denying the defendants' motion, Judge Trager said that (a) many of the defendants have retained the same attorneys, (b) there have been approximately 350 RIAA cases in the Eastern District of New York, and (c) Magistrate Levy has brought about "equitable settlements".

[Ed. Note. I wonder how many of the defendants think the settlements were "equitable". - R.B.]

December 18, 2007, Decision and Order Denying Motion for Random Assignment of Cases*
December 18, 2007, Order Denying Motion for Random Assignment of Cases*

* Document published online at Internet Law & Regulation

Commentary & discussion:


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...

Ray - need to fix the links.


raybeckerman said...

Thanks. Fixed the links.

derivative said...

My legalese isn't so good, but I think I get some of the gist of it.

As near as I can tell, an approximate English translation would be:

"We've been very successful at convincing defendants that if they don't pay the RIAA protection money before the case goes to trial, they will be in serious trouble. (For some of the more recalcitrant defendants, a recent ruling from Minnesota should help out on that front in the future.) We consider this outcome "justice", because when the RIAA has filed so many suits, some of them obviously have merit, and we'd hate for any of the defendants to be playing Russian Roulette with their finances. Much better to simply have them all cave and pay a little bit. Kind of like state-mandated auto insurance, really, if you think about it.

Our ability to clear these cases from our docket in record time (by relying on third party techno-mumbo-jumbo coupled with the harsh statutory damages written into the copyright law) reflects extremely well on us, and we don't really want to share with the other judges, because if we did, we might get some of the longer, harder cases that are currently doled out to all the other judges while we take the easy ones, and then it would be much more difficult to look good -- why, we might not get out of the office until after 3:00 on some days.

Another issue, of course, would be the troubling prospect that in the future, someone might compare the RIAA batting average in our court with their average in the court of one of our esteemed colleagues, and this could lead to some awkward questions.

Fortunately, the way the local rules are written, there's a lot of wiggle room for us to declare we think things are fine as they are, which is exactly what we have decided to do. And since we're the judges and really only have to convince ourselves that what we are doing is correct (aren't discretion and deference wonderful things?), we don't have to waste any time thinking too hard about how many of those 350 defendants might have been really innocent or anything. After all, if we did the analysis and presented our argument as carefully as we require lawyers to do, we certainly wouldn't be out of here by 3:00 for a few days, and of course, if the analysis wasn't rigorous, some appeal judge might find a problem with it, and if it were rigorous, the result might not be what we really would like it to be, and that would REALLY cut into our slack time.

No, much better not to confuse the issue with any facts other than the one that we've helped the RIAA cow 350 victims^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdefendants into lopsided settlements.

Really, there would only be two possible outcomes to letting other judges handle some of these cases:

1) Either they would come up to speed on our patented docket-clearing maneuvers, in which case the defendants wouldn't be any better off, but judicial economy (especially the present court's judicial economy) wouldn't be served; or

2) They would never figure it out. Some of these cases would linger a lot longer, perhaps even coming to trial. How does THAT help judicial economy??? Sure, a few of the defendants might get off scot-free, but either the losers would be in a world of hurt, or some activist judge would have to tackle a constitutional issue. We're judges; as everybody knows we are duty bound to do everything possible before we reach a constitutional issue. And, of course, it would really suck if some other judge found any kind of reason why the RIAA shouldn't be bothering anybody in this district. That would go to the appeals court, and there's a danger they might agree, and then we'd have to stop doing what we're doing, which would cut into our slack time, and we'd have to pretend like we lost a little sleep over the 350 defendants we gave so much help to."

Anonymous said...

Of course, The "Batting Average" of this Court can be still be compared to the other 93 districts in the country and we might get a better idea as to if this method helps either side.

Has any study been done in this regard. The "gut" feeling says this currently helps the plaintiff more than the defendant, but I wonder what the facts say.

Comparing Western district of Texas or District of New Mexico to this distict would be interesting too.

Of course, this can still backfire on the RIAA if these Judges were to make a ruling that is adverse to their position and then apply that to all their cases.

For example, a judge might find that most broadband connections are used by multiple persons and often multiple computers, or that the majority of use of the typical broadband connection is that of the minor children.

While under ideal conditions the Record Companies might be able to establish that filesharing software was in use, it looks to me that the weak points are the lack of evidence that:

1) The subscriber was the one that installed and operated the software.

2) That at least one song was actually shared.

My understanding is that the mere providing of an internet connection to others is not Copyright Infringement.
Since they always start by suing the subscriber, a ruling that it is more likely that the subscriber was NOT the operator of the software would put a real hurt to their case.


Anonymous said...

Judge Trager's Honesty and Impartiality are now so clearly in question that he should be recused from ALL these cases - by force, if required.

Those of us with suspicious minds would even be considering investigating his background, and the background of his family members, for any improper ties to these Plaintiffs. Whether true or not, the APPEARANCE of impropriety now smells so strongly in this case, that it removes all confidence in the fairness of the judicial system, and when average people fail to feel that justice is fair any longer, then justice has failed!

Can this clearly questionable decision be appealed easily?

And what's that website where normal people review judge's performance?

By the way, given that the RIAA has used unlicensed investigators in the state of New York, shouldn't all these cases be thrown out for lack of any admissible evidence at the initial ex parte stage? IP addresses, and especially shared directory lists, were gathered in an unlicensed manner, and this is the ONLY evidence presented, ergo no case.


Anonymous said...

So now, if this judge is wrong once, he's wrong for everybody. There are no checks or balances on his decisions in this court district by any other judges. And this is a good idea because…?

Oh, and that off-the-cuff comment about these cases all involving small sums of money. Aside from tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills, and the proven potential of a $220,000.00 judgment against you, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of paying the Plaintiff's legal bills, maybe that seems like mere pocket change to a big New York federal judge. As for the rest of us…oh well, our opinions don't really matter anyway.

I sure that they're sure that they're doing Defendant Torres a favor by subjecting him to Magistrate Judge Levy's equitable settlements process now -- whether he wants it, or not! And he's just an ungrateful little peon for objecting.


DreadWingKnight said...

This is a situation where I would go up the chain for things.

Even though the defendants are retaining the same lawyers, and the plantiffs are claiming related, it has been demonstrated that the cases are only related long enough for the RIAA member companies to continue to benefit from them being related.

I believe you pointed out to the judge that the RIAA member companies no longer consider cases related the INSTANT that it is no longer beneficial to consider them related.

It appears to me (and I may be wrong here) that the RIAA have gone judge shopping and found one they want to stay with.

This ruling gives the outward appearance of favoritism on the part of the judges in such a way that the general populace is on the bad end of the stick. This may not truly be the case, but that's what I gather from the ruling.

Anonymous said...

Well Judge Trager's decision sounds pretty fair and impartial to my way of thinking....(my satirical quote for those of you who missed it)


Art said...

This is a disappointing decision. Limiting the diversity of judicial opinion and involvement when many of these cases are setting new legal precedant suits neither this district, nor the defendants in these cases. I think it is prejudicial to the defendants. Efficiency for the court and the plaintiffs should not outweigh the rights of the defendants. It also means that other judges will loose the opportunity to be as well educated on such cases.

I'm not saying the judge and/or the magistrate will be biased one way or another. Some judges will render decisions more favorable for defendants, and some more favorable for plaintiffs. It is the "averaging out" of judgments from different judges that helps ensure justice for all.

With that said, and based on the plaintiffs position on the matter, it appears they believe they will get better decisions in this district with less diversity of judicial opinion and involvement.


Anonymous said...

Well Ray, I'll bet the settlements cost less then another 6+ months of legal bills + the possibility of a Thomas type jury result.