Former RIAA lobbyist targets "pirates" from U.S. District Court bench

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell has introduced a landmark verdict making it easier for copyright holders to demand cash payment from people they suspect of copyright infringement.

However, an examination of Howell’s background reveals the judge was previously employed as an RIAA lobbyist and Managing Director of a pirate-chasing outfit.

With her decision, she gives copyright holders free range to go after suspected copyright infringers, something which has proved quite profitable in the past.

It puts BitTorrent users in a bad position, even those that are innocent. Some ISPs and consumer rights groups have gone as far as to call this policy "extortion," yet Howell went forward with the action.

A lawyer named Robert Cashman who often represents those accused of copyright infringement states, "I believe the judge is giving the plaintiff attorneys the benefit of the doubt on all accounts, which is unfortunate because she is turning a blind eye to the abuses defendants are suffering with threats and harassment while plaintiff attorneys attempt to scare them into a settlement."

Judge Howell worked on the General Counsel of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary where she helped draft several prominent intellectual property protection laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Detrrence Act, and the No Electronic Theft Act.

She also worked at Stroz Friedberg, a consulting firm that specializes in the management of digital crimes. At Stroz Friedberg, Howell made around $415,000 between 2004 and 2008.

She is more than outspoken about her loyalty to copyright holders, and stakeholders in her career have a lot to benefit from her new position of power. Her landmark ruling allowed copyright holders to send out settlements to tens of thousands of alleged file-sharers without first having evidence against them to be tested in court.

The ruling also means that copyright holders can easily request personal details of people who have allegedly downloaded copyright works on BitTorrent, making it easy for these holders to request cash payment.

Conflict of interest much?

(Via TorrentFreak)