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Donna Wentworth
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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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August 29, 2005

Do It Right Or Not at All

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Speaking of the RIAA lawsuits, Public Knowledge's Mike Godwin has a new piece criticizing them. It's not about whether or not the recording industry has a right to sue, explains Godwin. It's about the choice to sue in the first place, and how the RIAA is going about doing it:


[It] seems obvious that the RIAA should pick the lawsuits prudently, based on solid evidence, so that when the cases are publicized it will be clear that the defendants deserved what they got.

That doesn't seem to be what's happening, however.


Instead, we see what Wendy Seltzer calls The Attack of the Subpoena-Bots -- automatic weapons-style lawsuits shot into a crowd of people that Internet searches have identified as potentially guilty of file-sharing copyrighted songs. Eager to avoid the expense of an attorney and recognizing that settling is the cheaper route, most of these seemingly random targets give up rather than fight. Only, every once in a while, they refuse to settle -- an occurence so rare the RIAA attorneys evidently show up in court still thinking they've got the end-game sewn up.

Godwin provides a fr'instance -- a court appearance by Patricia Santangelo, transcribed here. Explains Godwin, "[The judge in the case] refused to be a mere conduit steering Ms. Santangelo to the RIAA's 'conference center' (which should properly be called a 'surrender center')."

Here, an excerpt from the transcript:


MR. MASCHIO: No, all I was suggesting, your Honor, is that, if she doesn't come with an attorney, that the more direct way of doing this -- and this is just to facilitate things -- is to deal directly with the conference center.

THE COURT: Not once you've filed an action in my court.

MR. MASCHIO: Okay.

THE COURT: You file an action in my court, your conference center is out of it. They have nothing to do with anything.

MR. MASCHIO: Okay. I'll give her my card.

THE COURT: If you are here, you are here as an officer of the court. You're taking up my time and cluttering up my calendar, so you will do it in the context of the Court. Maybe it will be with a magistrate judge, but you will be representing your client, not some conference center. And if your people want things to be done through the conference center, tell them not to bring lawsuits.


Nice. And a wonderful reminder that the lawsuits affect real people with real lives -- even busy judges who may chafe at the role they're being asked to play in this unfortunate, ineffective "education" campaign.

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