A federal judge has denied the RIAA's motion for default judgment in the case of Atlantic v. Dangler, a case where alleged infringer Jeff Dangler failed to appear in court. The RIAA filed the original complaint in March,then moved for a default judgment less than two months later after the Clerk of the Court entered Dangler's default.
Despite the fact that Dangler hadn't bothered to answer the charges brought against him, Judge David G. Larimer decided against awarding the RIAA's motion for a default judgment of $6,000 plus court costs. The judge cited "significant issues of fact" regarding the RIAA's linking of the KaZaA username "[email protected]" to Dangler, as well as a lack of details about when the alleged infringement took place.
"Although the complaint establishes that someone using the 'KaZaA' online peer-to-peer file sharing service uploaded the Copyrighted Recordings, or otherwise offered them for distribution, the complaint does not identify details such as the time period during which the violations allegedly took place," wrote the judge.
Indeed, the RIAA's original complaint against Dangler is very light on the details, as are the record labels' other "boilerplate" complaints. The RIAA didn't offer any specifics on when the infringement took place, just saying that Dangler "has used, and continues to use, an online media system… to distribute… and/or make the Copyrighted Recordings available for distribution to others." There's no data tying Dangler to [email protected], and nothing about the date and time the alleged infringement took place.
This is at least the second time in the last two months that the RIAA has failed to obtain a default judgment against a defendant that had not bothered to show up in court. In the case of Interscope v. Rodriguez last month, the judge cited the lack of specifics regarding the alleged infringement in turning aside the labels' attempt to obtain a default judgment. "The complaint is simply a boilerplate listing of the elements of copyright infringement without any facts pertaining specifically to the instant Defendant," wrote Judge Brewster, a conclusion that could apply equally to Atlantic v. Dangler.
Since the adverse ruling in Interscope v. Rodriguez, the RIAA has changed the language in its complaints to include specific dates, IP addresses, screen names, and a list of recordings that the RIAA's investigators found in the shared folder. There is still a good deal of "information and belief" in the complaints, but the increased number of specifics appears to be enough to mollify judges concerned about the record labels' boilerplate complaints.
Dangler isn't off the hook, however. The judge will hold a hearing in which the RIAA will be able to present additional evidence that copyright infringement took place. The RIAA's attorneys will likely use their date in court to present the results of MediaSentry's investigation, the ISP's records tying the IP address flagged by MediaSentry to Dangler, and any other evidence it has that ties the defendant to the alleged file sharing.
Further readingYou can find a copy of the complaint at Recording Industry vs. The PeopleJudge deals blow to RIAA's boilerplate copyright infringement complaints contains more details about the Interscope v. Rodriguez caseThe Supreme Court's May 2007 ruling in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly has made judges more critical of the RIAA's boilerplate complaints