RIAA lobbyist turned judge runs a fantasy courtroom, the only one in America where they don't laugh copyright trolls out the door

Judge Beryl Howell used to work for the RIAA as a lobbyist. Or perhaps she still does. How else to explain her totally bizarre courtroom appearance in a copyright troll lawsuit -- where ISPs are arguing that they shouldn't have to turn over their customer data to discredited, laughable copyright troll John Steele, who can't get a break in any of the many other courtrooms where he's trying the stunt.

Mike Masnick has a highlight reel. The tl;dr is that Howell thinks that ISPs should bear responsibility for figuring out how to stop piracy on their networks (in the same breath in which she admits that the law says the opposite), and because they haven't taken this step, their customers have no right to privacy. Then she cites a GAO report on piracy (which actually says that all the RIAA's and MPAA's piracy numbers are total bullshit) and says it proves that piracy is a problem.

But apparently copyright trolls have found a friend in Judge Howell, who not only is welcoming them with open arms, but seems to be using these trolling cases to further the goals of her former employer. She's released her decision on the motion to quash the subpoenas, and it's basically a 42-page screed on the evils of infringement and how ISPs should be responsible for stopping piracy (much of which has absolutely nothing to do with the case at all). The only nod towards the other side seems to be a weak acknowledgement that "the Court recognizes that other Judges on this Court have reached different conclusions with respect to the legal questions posed by the ISPs" and thus she's agreed to stay her decision until the appeals court weighs in.

But she makes sure to get her arguments in for the appeals court to read, and it certainly feels like she reverted back to "lobbyist" mode, rather than "impartial judge."

She kicks off the polemic with a grand history of the DMCA, and how the task force that was created to write the DMCA originally wanted to pin liability on ISPs for actions done by their users. And while she admits that eventually the DMCA did include such liability protection, it seems clear she would have preferred it the other way. She then highlights the important court decisions from a decade ago, against the RIAA and in favor of Verizon and Charter, that ruled that the RIAA could not demand ISPs identify users without actually filing a lawsuit against them first. This, of course, was a basic recognition of basic privacy rights, and the fact that if you are going to expose someone's private info, you ought to at least file a lawsuit against them first. But, in the world of Judge Howell, apparently this was a bad decision. She approvingly cites the dissent in one of the key cases, claiming this somehow "unraveled" the balance struck in the DMCA. Nothing, of course, is further from the truth. That's a total rewrite of reality.

RIAA Lobbyist-Turned-Judge: ISPs Deserve Copyright Trolls For Not Stopping Infringement


  1. Is there not an implicit conflict of interest having a former entertainment industry lobbyist presiding over an entertainment industry copyright case?

      1.  Clearly unethical judges can be impeached. Ha ha ho.. Sorry. Yeah, that could definitely occur.

    1. Why? What financial stake in the outcome of their deliberations does such a person have? Isn’t the only benefit to themselves a warm feeling that they’ve done their former chums a favour?

      Naturally, were such chums found to be reciprocating ‘in kind’ then that would be another matter – straightforward corruption of the judiciary.

      But in general I don’t see it. Most people believe they’re acting ‘for the good’. Can’t a judge simply be a cretin any more?

    1.  Probably not. But a whole bunch of negative publicity (aka, Truth) may blunt her ideology. She’s a corporate shill, and should be pointed and laughed at.

      1.  I, for one, point at her and laugh. (And cry a little bit too about the hypocrisy and greed of people).    

    2.  Yes – the lawyers should have demanded she recuse herself. They’re idiots for not doing so.
      On the upside, though, the judge may have some problems for basically saying, “fuck the law – I lobbied for this so that’s how it is in my courtroom.”

      1. Yes, they could have, but when the obviously biased and corrupt judge laughs in your face and then proceeds to make a mockery of law and justice, you have boned yourself and your client.

        This will be overturned on appeal.

    3. Yes, there is, but it requires a lot of money.   

      Alternatively, this is what appellate court exists for.   This also costs a lot of money, but not nearly the a lot of option A.  

  2. If these people weren’t such assholes, I’d have given up piracy years ago. Now it’s just for fun. 

  3. Because when a Judge railroads the law it should be for a lawyer facing ethics violations in several states. 
    Who tried to shake done a 70 yr old woman until she didn’t cave and pay, she called in the media who got him to admit his foolproof identification system made a mistake.
    For a moron who setup a robodialer and called Does from dismissed cases and those with lawyers demanding payment or else.
    The moron who found Federal Courts to troublesome and started filing cases in Florida to abuse a state law to get names across the country.

    This is the same court that ruled that Uwe Bolle needed to know who Does were because that was the reason he didn’t make money… not that the worst director in the world makes crap films.

    One should not be worried we might have a High Court/Low Court system starting to happen… it is already here and alive and well tearing the little peoples rights down because someone using “software” that has never been vetted saw an IP address and that means if you pay the ISP bill you must have stolen the porn.  Who needs discovery, truth, or a day in court…  just threats to get people to pay up before the troll tells the world your a porn pirate… 

    Its a nice house, it would be a shame if it burned down….
    Comments like that got people running protection rackets arrested, but if you have a law degree the courts bless you on your way.

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