Re: #When RIAA attacks
- From: "marcusfb" <marcusfb@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 27 Jul 2009 18:11:54 -0500
"5083 Dead, 216 since 1/20/09" <dead@xxxxxxxx> wrote in message news:RfadnQqKjZhGAfDXnZ2dnUVZ_rSdnZ2d@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
How it feels to be sued for $4.5m
When I contemplate the above sum, I have to remind myself what I'm being
charged with. Investment fraud? An attack against the government? No. I
shared music. And refused to cave
To a certain extent, I'm afraid to write this. Though they've already
seized my computer and copied my hard drive, I have no guarantee they
won't do it again. For the past four years, they've been threatening me,
making demands for trial, deposing my parents, sisters, friends, and
myself twice – the first time for nine hours, the second for seven. I
face up to $4.5m in fines and the last case like mine that went to trial
had a jury verdict of $1.92m.
When I contemplate this, I have to remind myself what I'm being charged
with. Investment fraud? Robbing a casino? A cyber-attack against the
federal government? No. I shared music. And refused to cave.
No matter how many people I explain this to, the reaction is always the
same: dumbfounded surprise and visceral indignance, both of which are a
result of the amazing secrecy the Recording Industry Association of
America (RIAA) has operated under. "How did they get you?" I'm asked. I
explain that there are 40,000 people like me, being sued for the same
thing, and we were picked from a pool of millions who shared music. And
that's when a look appears on the face of whoever I'm talking to, the
horrified "it could have been me!" look.
The reason this has remained so silent despite passionate opposition is
that nearly all people settle. My story of becoming an exception started
four years ago.
In 2005, my parents received a letter from Sony BMG, Warner, Atlantic
Records, Arista Records, and UMG Records claiming "copyright
infringement". They were given a number to call, which was their
"settlement information line", a call centre staffed by operators who, we
are emphatically told, are "not attorneys". The process of collecting
money from these threats was so huge, they had set up a 1-800-DONT-SUE-ME-
style call centre.
The operators did little more than ask how you would pay (they wanted
$3,000, I believe) and repeated intimidating lawsuit statistics. I sent
them a money order for $500, which they returned. I told them I couldn't
pay any more. We discussed whether I might qualify for "financial
hardship", and then I stopped hearing from them, which I didn't question.
I graduated from college and began studying for my physics doctorate.
And then in August 2007, I came home from work to find a stack of papers,
maybe 50 pages thick, sitting at the door to my apartment. That's when I
found out what it was like to have possibly the most talented copyright
lawyers in the business, bankrolled by multibillion-dollar corporations,
throwing everything they had at someone who wanted to share Come As You
Are with other Nirvana fans.
I had assumed that as an equal in a court of law in the United States, my
story would be told and a just outcome would result. I discovered the
sheer magnitude of obstacles in your way to get your say in court. And
even if you get to trial, (which only one other person, Jammie Thomas
Rasset, has done) you're still far from equal with the machine
controlling 85% of commercial music in the US.
But to even start fighting assumes you (a) know what you're even being
sued for and (b) have a concept of what grounds to fight it on. Most of
the time you know nothing except for the huge stack of paper written in
legalese that says you owe several thousand dollars and it will probably
cost you more than that just to hire a lawyer. If you can find one.
I had frequent contact with one of their Colorado counsel. While she was
impudent to the point of vicious ("Come on Joel, I think you did it"), I
continued to use phrases like "I respect your position" and "we have a
respectful difference of opinion". I have no record of this intimidation
because the person in question made sure to keep contact restricted to
Every conversation consisted of her trying to get information out of me
about my defense, telling me how much bigger the settlement would be if I
didn't settle now. Shaken, I would call my mother, who was a state-paid
lawyer in child custody cases, and ask her what to do. We blindly fired
all kinds of motions at them. Eventually my mother became afraid to
answer my calls, worried it would be about the case. For the court
"settlement" I offered $5,250, which the RIAA declined, asking $10,500. I
saw myself on a conveyor belt, being pulled inexorably toward the meshing
of razor-sharp gears.
Then in summer 2008, I arrived home to find a letter addressed to me. The
return address said "Harvard Law School". Curiously, I opened and read
it. "My name is Charles Nesson, professor of Law at Harvard. I caught
wind of your case," it said. "I can be of any assistance, don't hesitate
to call." I called. Nesson picked up. I said, "Yes, you can be of
assistance!" My mom drafted a letter to him, summarising where we were.
The opening line read, "Dear Professor Godsend".
Since then I've learned that you don't have to accept phone contact from
the RIAA lawyers, but could demand correspondence by mail. I've been
deposed twice – for nine hours one day and for another seven a few weeks
ago – where I was asked every irrelevant question about my life, cars
that I owned, websites I've operated. The RIAA will try to denigrate
this, saying I was only talking for seven hours and then five and a half,
but I was stuck in their office the entire time. You think it makes any
difference to me when I can't work?
My sisters, dad and mother have all been deposed. My high-school friends,
friends of the family too. My computer's been seized and hard drive
copied, and my parents and sister narrowly escaped the same fate for
their computers. And the professor who supervises my teaching is
continually frustrated with my need to have people cover for me, while my
research in grad school is put on hold to deal with people whose full-
time job is to keep an anvil over my head. I have to consider every
unrelated thing I do in my private life in the event that I'm
interrogated under oath about it. I wonder how I'll stand up in a
courtroom for hours having litigators try to convince a jury of my guilt
and the reprehensibility of my character.
But the support helps. I've had a great team of Nesson's students helping
and the professor himself has been magnificent. Most of all, I'm touched
by the warm messages of support from the people who've written in,
Twittered, and Facebooked me (though I've been too paranoid to friend
strangers lately). Best hopes to others dealing with the same: Brittany
Kruger, Jammie Thomas, and the other 39,997 of us.
The trial starts today, 27 Monday July. Regrettably, it won't be webcast
as we requested due to the RIAA's successful opposition, but we will
tweet (with the hashtag #jfb) and blog as much as possible, and there is
a website where you can follow us and learn more.
"Universal" American healthcare coverage, explained:
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor
to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal
bread." (Anatole France from The Red Lily, 1894)
Sue your ISP they gave out the info about how much you download.
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