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Judge Upholds Award of Attorneys' Fees Against RIAA

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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So far, the RIAA has sued over 18,000 individuals for allegedly sharing music over the Internet. But the industry uses slapdash investigative methods to find its targets, and so innocent people as well as guilty ones can find themselves entangled in an expensive and draining process. One recent victim was a woman who didn’t even own a computer. Another lawsuit target was deceased. If Ms. Foster is awarded attorney’s fees, it will encourage future innocent victims to stand up for themselves in court. – EFF

The judge did indeed award attorneys’ fees, and refused to reconsider the award:

A federal judge has denied the RIAA’s motion for reconsideration of his attorneys’ fees award in Capitol v. Foster. Calling the RIAA’s motion for reconsideration one of “very limited appropriateness,” Judge Lee R. West found fault with just about every one of the RIAA’s arguments. – ars technica

EFF gives some background:

Last year, Judge Lee R. West dismissed the case against her with prejudice after it became clear that Ms. Foster was simply the Internet access account holder in her home and had no knowledge or experience with file sharing software. EFF, Public Citizen, the ACLU, and the American Association of Law Libraries filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting Ms. Foster’s motion for fees.

Of the original order awarding attorneys’ fees, Groklaw writes:

The court’s analysis goes like this: ordinarily a court has discretion to award fees or not, and some of the factors it will consider will be such things as frivolousness. Other factors, Judge West states, are “motivation, objective unreasonableness of the non-prevailing party’s case, and need in particular circumstances to advance considerations of compensation and deterrence.” In the US, fees are not normally granted if a case is dismissed with prejudice. But in exceptional circumstances, it can happen, such as “where a plaintiff makes a practice of repeatedly bringing claims and then dismissing with prejudice ‘after inflicting substantial litigation costs on the opposing party and the judicial system.’”

And more from Groklaw:

[T]he music industry, which has been suing the poor and powerless—some believe so as to build a body of one-sided case law around US Copyright Law—has been told where the line in the sand is. The plaintiffs who massed against this defendant—Capitol Records, UMG Recordings, Maverick Recording Company, BMG Music, Arista Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Records—have been told they will have to pay a reasonable amount, yet to be determined, of this vindicated defendant’s legal fees, because she has been ruled the prevailing party, against all odds.

The RIAA is notorious for these suits, as they attempt to use the judicial system for their advantage. However, provided one has an attorney willing and able to resist, the system does strive ultimately for fairness. That, of course, is one reason I am in law school.