A quick break from Trusts & Estates: RIAA Defendant awarded attorneys’ fees

Though there is more than enough law to populate the contents of any blog (or blogs), my internal geek can’t let go of the tech-law… I indulge so rarely but this story is too great… I’ve been waiting for something like this for years:

In Capitol Record v. Debbie Foster the RIAA sued an Oklahoma woman over copyright infringement. In July, the case against her was dismissed with prejudice after she alleged that she was completely ignorant as to even the existence of such a thing and implicated her adult daughter and estranged husband. However, instead of dropping the case against her, the RIAA told Debbie that she was liable for any infringement regardless of whether she had shared or downloaded files herself because she was the registered owner of the account. Thus the RIAA advanced what the judge saw as a novel and untested theory in copyright law. Debbie counterclaimed.

After RIAA dismissed their suit against her, with prejudice, Debbie continued to pursue her counterclaim. She finally won reasonable attorneys fees with the decision reading in part:

Unlike the courts in the unpublished opinions cited by the plaintiffs, this Court must consider whether a defendant should receive an award of attorneys’ fees when she successfully defends against the novel application of secondary copyright infringement claims… Her only alternative to litigating the plaintiffs’ contributory or vicarious liability claim was to capitulate to a settlement for violation she insists she did not commit. Such capitulation would not advance the aims of the Copyright Act as the plaintiffs’ untested theory would remain untested.

Debbie’s attorney Ray Beckerman sees large implications for the RIAA’s legal strategy after this loss… I hope he is right.

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