RIAA Gets Handed Setback By Judge In New Mexico
The Recording Industry Association of America must do more to respect the rights of defendants in file-sharing lawsuits
Federal Judge Lorenzo F. Garcia has denied the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) motion to engage in discovery in their quest to unveil the names of students who allegedly engaged in copyright infringement using the University of New Mexico’s network.
The ruling translates that it will not be as easy for the RIAA to bully Universities to obtain student information from the University. The RIAA’s request for the students’ identities before the students themselves are notified was denied, and thus means that the RIAA’s attornies will have to leap over more hurdles to obtain the identities of students who are infringing music copyrights.
The RIAA’s legal strategy allows them to circumvent the system since the targeted defendant never gets an opportunity to answer during the John Doe lawsuits and fight the RIAA’s subpoenas. First, the RIAA files John Doe lawsuits, then they file ex parte applications for discovery. The next step is serving the subpoena to the alleged infringer’s ISP to discover the identity of the person to whom the IP address was assigned. Finally, they offer the claimed downloader, ID’d by the ISP, a chance to settle the copyright infringement claims without a lawsuit.
Judge Garcia stated that the defendants have legal rights to limit disclosure of information and object to subpoenas. However, the RIAA can still hunt down the University of New Mexico students, but it must determin a way that respects their legal rights to limit discovery. To do that, the University of Mexico will have to play ball with the trade organization. In his ruling, Garcia commanded the University and the RIAA to develop an appropriate process to ensure that individual Does will be informed that a subpoena has been issued so they can defend themselves appropriately.
The Future: This ruling is certainly a blow to the RIAA, especially if other state judges feel that it sets enough of a precedent for them to follow Garcia’s example. It also lays down significant speed bumps in the RIAA’s legal strategy against alleged file traders. This setback coupled with more defendants deciding to fight the RIAA and winning, makes it much more expensive for the trade organization to go the legal route…with the major labels continuing to lose money by the boatload, how long will they be able to afford this strategy?