RIAA Blowback

shotinfoot1.jpgThe music industry’s blanket lawsuit habit may soon backfire, says ARS Technica’s Eric Bangeman in a recent post. RIAA typically requests that actions against accused file-traders be “dismissed without prejudice” – this means that lawsuit defendants have no recourse against what are often frivolous cases. Some of them have recently asked that their suits be “dismissed with prejudice” so they can collect court costs and attorney fees from RIAA.

Writes Bangeman:

The hundreds of cases filed have all proceeded along the same lines, with which most of us are all too familiar. The music industry’s exit strategy from cases it deems undesirable to pursue—due to mistaken identity, poor likelihood of winning, or other factors—has been just as consistent. The record labels file for a dismissal without prejudice and everybody goes their own ways, footing their own legal bills, and no one is officially cleared of wrong-doing. Recent events may be casting a shadow over the wisdom of the RIAA’s strategy.

Now they’re trying a new approach – dismiss without prejudice, but with an additional promise not to sue the defendant again. One of those defendants, however, isn’t willing to accept less than complete exoneration of wrongdoing, which isn’t part of the settlement package. In Warner Bros. v. Tallie Stubbs, says Bangeman:

Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange split the difference. She granted the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss without prejudice while denying their motion to dismiss the counterclaim, ruling that “there are independent bases for subject matter jurisdiction over Defendant’s declaratory judgment counterclaim.” In other words, the defendant can seek to have her name cleared of any wrongdoing, regardless of the plaintiff’s decision to dismiss.

The industry’s dual approach is fraught with problems, continues Bangeman:

In choosing this course of action, the RIAA is taking a calculated risk. Dismissing a case without prejudice while promising not to bring further legal action could be interpreted as the functional equivalent of a dismissal with prejudice. As a result, the judge may very well decide to dismiss the case with prejudice after all. She could also then dismiss Stubbs’ counterclaim, as a dismissal with prejudice would mean that she is the prevailing party and leave the labels vulnerable to an attorneys’ fees awards.

Read the whole article here.