RIAA seeks sanctions against defense lawyer in copyright case

Beckerman calls motion 'frivolous,' claims RIAA can't prove its case

In a move likely to further irritate those opposed to the Recording Industry Association of America's controversial anti-piracy campaign, the RIAA last week filed a motion seeking legal sanctions against a lawyer known for vigorously defending alleged copyright violators.

In a motion filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, an RIAA lawyer accused New York attorney Ray Beckerman of engaging in "vexatious litigation" in a case involving an alleged copyright violator.

The 31-page motion by the RIAA asked the court to dismiss the case without prejudice and sanction Beckerman and his client for unnecessarily increasing the costs and duration of the lawsuit by filing false statements, making "frivolous motions" and fighting "good faith" attempts by the RIAA to uncover evidence.

The RIAA claimed that it was being forced to seek dismissal of the case because of the loss of a critical computer and because of the "defendant's obstructionist" strategies, both of which had irreparably hurt its ability to prove its claims. The motion noted that the case would not have lasted so long or cost so much to both sides if Beckerman and his client had provided the information sought by the RIAA in a timely and complete fashion.

In seeking sanctions against Beckerman, the RIAA noted that Beckerman's habit of posting details about all his "baseless motions" on his blog site "demeans the integrity of these judicial proceedings and warrants this imposition of sanctions."

The sanctions were needed to "punish Defendant and her counsel for their intentional misconduct and to discourage others from engaging in similar behavior," the RIAA noted in its brief.

Beckerman today dismissed the complaints as frivolous and said the only reason the RIAA is seeking to drop the case is because they are unable to prove the alleged copyright violation.

The case in question is UMG Recordings Inc. et al vs. Marie Lindor and dates back to 2005, though Beckerman only started representing Lindor in 2006. The RIAA accused Lindor, a home health aide from Haiti, of using her home computer to illegally download and distribute copyrighted music.

Initially, it was Beckerman who asked for dismissal of the case on the grounds that the recording companies had failed to provide evidence that Lindor engaged in copyright infringement.

"What's going on here is that they have been chasing an innocent woman for three years for nothing," Beckerman said. "I have repeatedly asked them to drop the case and they refused," he said. He repeatedly informed the RIAA that Lindor was computer illiterate and had not so much as switched on a computer at the time of her alleged infringement, he said.

"It is illogical and unfair for them therefore to now turn around and ask for the case to be dismissed to avoid spending more money and avoid being held liable for attorney fees," he said. "So what they did was try to lash out at me and Mrs. Lindor, that it is our fault they sued the wrong person," he said. "They cannot drop the case without prejudice," Beckerman said. "She is entitled to her day in court."

The Lindor case is one of thousands being pursued by the RIAA in its campaign against alleged copyright violators. The campaign has irked many for what they see as the high-handed manner in which the RIAA has pursued it. Recently, a growing litany of complaints from several quarters has surfaced claiming that one of the companies gathering evidence for RIAA copyright infringement cases has been operating as an unlicensed private investigation practice in many states.

The RIAA has brushed aside such concerns and has repeatedly said that it plans to vigorously pursue and prosecute music copyright violators. The association has defended the practices of the companies it uses to gather evidence and said that both the evidence and the manner in which it is collected has been tested successfully in the courts.

One of the group's biggest victories came last year when a federal jury in Minnesota awarded the RIAA more than $222,000 in damages in a copyright infringement case. But that award could yet come undone because the judge in the case admitted to making an error in the jury instructions he gave and is considering whether to order a new trial.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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