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RIAA might have to reveal investigation techniques

by on17 March 2008


Dirty little secrets may become public

A case originally brought by the RIAA  against Tanya Andersen (Atlantic Recording v. Andersen), a disabled single mother, was dropped and Ms. Andersen is now pursuing the RIAA in a case that is now being watched for legal precedent pertaining to the RIAA’s methods of investigating alleged illegal file sharers.

The RIAA originally filed its case against Andersen in 2005 for alleged illegal downloading and distributing copyrighted music files. Andersen fought back and filed several legal counterclaims against the RIAA and five music recording labels for invasion of privacy, electronic trespassing, fraud, malicious prosecution and libel, among other claims. The RIAA then dropped its suit against Andersen.  She continued on with her complaint against the RIAA.  Her initial lawsuit was dismissed on February 19, 2008, but was allowed by the Judge the opportunity to file an amended complaint as a direct action, provided Andersen clearly identified the legal basis for each of her claims.  Andersen had charged the recording labels of using unlicensed investigators to gather its evidence against her in illegal ways and that the RIAA had violated the RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act.

The Judge has not yet ruled on the amended complaint that was filed on Friday, March 14th.  But if it is accepted by the Court, the RIAA will be required to reveal its investigative methods, which will be a legal “first.”  The RIAA has operated largely in secrecy and by using covert operations, threatening the alleged illegal music sharers it catches to either pay up or be sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is no court hearing and no due process under their methods. If the RIAA must come clean, it will involve investigation into techniques used by evidence-gathering Media Sentry, the Maryland-based company that decides which file sharers the RIAA should pursue. Thousands of people that have been sued by the RIAA will be watching this case carefully, as they, too, have complaints with the way the RIAA has collected its information against them.  Some claim that Media Sentry has illegally accessed and uploaded private confidential information about them that is not related to copyright infringement and is not part of its investigations for RIAA.

Andersen turned her hard drive over to the RIAA to prove that she had not done anything illegal, but rather than drop the case the RIAA claimed that Andersen was lying about the computer she had used and that she had not given them the correct hard drive.  After the RIAA lawyers had legally taken a deposition of Andersen’s 8-year-old daughter, the RIAA lawyers tried to illegally ask Andersen’s 8-year-old daughter more questions off the record by telephoning the child at school, posing as the child’s mother to school officials.

In addition to the legal basis for each claim, Andersen’s attorney said the amended complaint seeks an injunction to immediately stop the RIAA’s illegal investigations of other alleged music file sharers, a class action certification for others who have been harassed and threatened by the RIAA, and compensatory damages from the RIAA for its wrongdoing and the injury it has caused all the persons it has illegally pursued.

There are thousands who have a personal stake in this action and millions of others who will be watching the outcome, and we will be among them.

Read more here.

Last modified on 17 March 2008
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