July 17, 2007 | By Nika Engberg

Innocent RIAA Defendant Fights Back, Wins $70,000 Fee Award

After more than three years of litigation, a single mom who was improperly swept up in the RIAA's P2P litigation "driftnet" has finally been vindicated. An Oklahoma court has ordered the RIAA to pay nearly seventy thousand dollars in fees and costs to defendant Debra Foster. EFF, Public Citizen, the ACLU, and the American Association of Law Libraries filed an amicus brief in the case, supporting Foster's motion for fees.

Soon after the RIAA brought suit against Foster in 2004, it became clear that the the recording industry was pursuing the wrong person. But the RIAA not only refused to dismiss the case, it brought additional, unsupported claims of secondary infringement. Finally, two years after filing suit, the RIAA dropped the claims and attempted to walk away scot?free.

But Foster refused to allow the RIAA to avoid responsibility for its actions, and demanded compensation for the time and resources her attorneys devoted to fending off the bogus claims. Even after Judge Lee West of the Western District of Oklahoma granted Foster's motion and called the RIAA's legal theory "frivolous and unreasonable," the record labels came back with more outrageous arguments for why the court should reconsider

Yesterday, Judge West brought Foster's epic to an end at last and granted her compensation. The ruling sends a message to both RIAA defendants and the RIAA itself that the music companies can be held accountable when they bring improper claims based on inadequate information.

Already, other litigants including Tanya Andersen and Dawnell Leadbetter are moving for attorneys' fees in cases where the RIAA has brought and eventually dismissed wrongful copyright claims. These defendants are helping stop the RIAA from recklessly pursuing spurious claims and chilling legitimate internet use. We hope the RIAA gets the message soon that it's better to serve music fans than to sue them.


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