Link: Ars technica
By Eric Bangeman |Published: March 21, 2007 - 08:38PM CT
The case of Elektra v. Santangelo has been one of the more closely followed cases in the RIAA's crusade against suspected file sharers, due in no small part to the aggressiveness of Patti Santangelo's defense. Ray Beckerman is reporting that Judge Colleen McMahon has denied the RIAA's motion to dismiss the case without prejudice, ruling that the case must either proceed to trial or be dismissed with prejudice.
It's a noteworthy ruling because if the case is dismissed with prejudice, Santangelo would be considered the prevailing party and would likely be entitled to an award of attorneys' fees, as in Capitol v. Foster. In her ruling, Judge McMahon concluded that "no conceivable interest of justice would be served by permitting this case to be dismissed without prejudice against defendant." Instead, the defendant should have a shot at vindication via a trial or have the case dismissed with prejudice.
"This case is two years old," wrote Judge McMahon. "There has been extensive fact discovery. After taking this discovery, either plaintiffs want to make their case that Mrs. Santangelo is guilty of contributory copyright infringement or they do not."
The choice is clear-cut for the RIAA: either proceed with a full-blown jury trial in which they will have to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty of secondary infringement—making the same argument that the judge in Capitol v. Foster didn't buy—or agree to an order dismissing the action with prejudice. (For a further discussion of secondary infringement, see earlier Capitol v. Foster coverage.)
Patti Santangelo, a divorced mother of five, was sued in 2005 after MediaSentry, the RIAA's investigative arm, found music in a shared folder under an IP that Santangelo's ISP said was assigned to her account at that time. Santangelo denied any knowledge of the alleged file-sharing, but the RIAA pressed ahead with the case.
After a barrage of legal filings, the RIAA then sued two of her children last November: Michelle, age 20, and Robert, age 16 (11 years old when the infringement allegedly took place). The new lawsuit claimed that Michelle had admitted to illicit downloading and that Robert's best friend had implicated him. At the same time, the RIAA continued to press its case that Patti Santangelo was guilty of secondary infringement. Robert has since filed an answer to the RIAA's lawsuit, denying any wrongdoing and demanding a trial by jury.
The ruling leaves the RIAA between a rock and a hard place, a position that it may find itself in more frequently as such cases move through the court system.
Filed under: RIAA, file-sharing, music, Law