Former Piracy Defendant Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against RIAA, Alleges Racketeering

by , Mar 18, 2008, 7:00 AM
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A woman who was sued by the record industry for alleged copyright infringement has struck back with a putative class-action lawsuit charging the Recording Industry Association of America with racketeering.

In a 108-page complaint filed in federal district court in Portland, Ore., former defendant Tanya Andersen alleges that the four major record labels conspired with investigative firm MediaSentry "to devise an investigation scheme that was both illegal and seriously flawed."

In addition to federal and state racketeering counts against the RIAA and MediaSentry, her complaint includes a host of other charges including intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, abuse of process and invasion of privacy. Andersen, who seeks to bring a class action on behalf of all people wrongly targeted by the RIAA, is asking for an injunction and damages of more than $5 million.

The RIAA had previously accused Andersen of using the peer-to-peer service Kazaa to steal music. The industry group last year dropped that lawsuit for lack of evidence and she filed a countersuit. Last month, a federal district court judge dismissed the bulk of her claims for vagueness, but gave her until the end of last week to file an amended petition.

RIAA Senior Vice President for Communications Jonathan Lamy said in a statement that it was "unfortunate that this case continues to drag on after the court previously deemed all of Ms. Anderson's claims inadequate." He added that the RIAA hopes to "resolve the case in short order."

Faced with declining sales and the easy availability of pirated music online, the RIAA in 2003 began pursuing a strategy of suing individuals for copyright infringement. Since then, the industry has targeted more than 20,000 individuals, many of whom have settled without going to court.

Andersen is now arguing that the RIAA has brought many of these cases without sufficient evidence of copyright infringement--a tactic she describes as "shamigation." "These cases are objectively baseless, automated, and pursued by the thousands without regard to their individual merits or the harm they cause. This sham litigation enterprise must be stopped," states the complaint.

Andersen also takes issue with the RIAA's use of MediaSentry investigators who, she alleges, "claim to have illegally entered the hard drives of tens of thousands of private American citizens to look for music recordings stored there."

MediaSentry scours peer-to-peer services like Kazaa for pirated music, traces it to an IP addresses, then turns it over to the RIAA, which issues subpoenas to network operators.

Andersen has charged that such investigations violate her privacy and are illegal because MediaSentry is not a licensed investigator. Other people targeted by the RIAA have also recently started raising that argument, which courts are now considering in other cases pending in Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and other states. In Massachusetts, it came out in court documents that the state police have sent MediaSentry a cease and desist letter for conducting private investigations without a license.

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