By Jon Newton 12/7/05
Laws were written to protect people, not to give huge, multi-billion dollar mega-corporations a way to terrorize them.
Will the law work equally well for an ordinary person with no heavyweight legal team and no unimaginably vast financial resources behind her?
Patricia Santangelo will find out as she represents herself in the first of the 17,000 or so Organized Music p2p file sharing cases to actually go to trial.
Santangelo, the mother of five children, was the first person to dare to stand up to Sony BMG, Vivendi Universal, Warner Music and EMI, the Big Four members of the Organized Music cartel. And up until now, she's had the New York firm of Beldock Levine & Hoffman working for her pro bono.
But to everyone's shock, judge Colleen McMahon recently denied Santangelo's appeal to have the case dismissed.
"I'm very nervous about it," Santangelo told p2pnet. "But I still feel it's got to go forward and I'm sure that even though I'll be representing myself, there are so many people out there who are willing to help me and give me advice on how to do it that I'll be OK."
The cartel has been, and still is, using formulaic boilerplate complaints to force anyone and everyone named as a defendant to defend each case on the merits. And as Ray Beckerman, who's been working with Santangelo told us, this in turn means every person sued will, "inevitably incur tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs for the pretrial discovery, and then a summary judgment motion and/or a trial"
Whether or not there's sufficient basis for the case doesn't enter the equation.
Meanwhile, obviously, the money has to come from somewhere and just as obviously, few law firms can hope to carry that kind of burden forever, a reality Sony BMG, Vivendi Universal, Warner Music and EMI are fully aware of.
In fact, they're counting on it to allow them to continue to victimize and terrorize - not too strong a word - their customers.
"Patricia Santangelo and her lawyers, Beldock Levine & Hoffman, have agreed that Ms. Santangelo should be substituted into the case as her own lawyer, in Elektra v. Santangelo, and submitted a stipulation and proposed order to that effect to Judge Colleen McMahon, who on November 28th had denied Ms. Santangelo's motion to dismiss complaint," say her former lawyers on their Recording Industry vs The People site.
"In his affidavit submitted with the stipulation and proposed order, Ray Beckerman, one of Ms. Santangelo's lawyers, said:
[I]t was jointly decided by defendant and by her counsel that it would be in defendant's best interests for defendant to be substituted as her own counsel, and to proceed pro se. 4. Additionally, (a) defendant does not appear to have the financial resources that would be required for the pretrial discovery, and summary judgment and/or trial work, that lay ahead, and (b) it is clear to the undersigned that the plaintiff's case is frivolous, so that it would be unwarranted for defendant to go to extraordinary means to finance her defense of this case.
Now, when Santangelo faces the Organized Music cartel's legal teams, she'll be doing it by herself. There will be no lawyer watching her back.
But this first landmark trial will be a trial by jury and we'll finally find out if Big Music can abuse a group of ordinary citizens in the same way it's been abusing the law.
The cartel wields its so-called trade organizations around the world to bludgeon ordinary men and women, and even children, for the awful offence of sharing music with each other online.
The Big Four call file sharers thieves and imply that every day, millions of people like Patricia Santangelo or Britanny Chan or Tanya Andersen deliberately and consciously set out to rob them of their rightful dues.
But file sharing means exactly what it says.
Nothing has been physically or digitally removed from its owners, depriving them of what's rightfully theirs, and no money changes hands. And more importantly, neither Sony BMG, Vivendi Universal, Warner Music and EMI nor any of the countless record companies they own has ever been able to prove that a file shared equals a sale lost.
"It's very important to me," Santangelo told p2pnet. "I still feel people shouldn't give in to them. Normal people can't afford to go through this, but I'm going to give it a try.
"Nothing has changed since I first received the papers.
"It seems like they're attacking people every day and they're getting away with it."
Jon Newton is the editor of p2pnet.net and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.
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