Arizona Judge Rejects RIAA's "Shared Directory = Piracy" Argument

Although it won’t affect other cases, the RIAA was handed a small smackdown this week when a U.S. district judge rejected their request for a summary judgement, and ruled that putting song files in a shared directory was not enough proof that infringement had occurred.

The judge said that the RIAA “must prove that the songs were actually downloaded,” which is not a distinction past judges have made. Whether or not this ruling will cause other judges to look at the RIAA’s future claims in a different light remains to be seen, however.

Wake’s ruling pretty much contradicts many of the legal arguments the RIAA has presented in those peer-to-peer lawsuits the organization has brought against individual users. However, not that many cases actually make it to court, mainly because defendants often opt for settling for a few thousand dollars instead of shouldering expenses for a jaunt through the civil legal system.

“The Proof Is In The Downloading” [Pollstar] (Thanks to !)
(Photo: Getty)


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  1. ivanthemute says:

    Huzza! Three cheers for the Honorable judge Neil Wake!

  2. humphrmi says:

    However, not that many cases actually make it to court, mainly because defendants often opt for settling for a few thousand dollars instead of shouldering expenses for a jaunt through the civil legal system.

    Yes, and the reason few people go to court is because it’s cheaper to settle and they think they’ll lose. But the more cases that go to court, the more the RIAA gets smacked.

    They used tried and true old-school methods to get money out of file sharers to start – threatening costly lawsuits.

    Now (I think) the house of cards is starting to fall down, once a few actual judges are getting to see their antics. First one smack against RIAA, then another, and another, and pretty soon people won’t be so afraid to take them on.

    BTW I have no love for file sharers, especially those who steal. But the way the RIAA fights is is simply despicable, and needs to be stopped.

  3. forgottenpassword says:


    However I am still going to download thru unsecured wifi networks & a “clean” untraceable laptop.

    COme get me RIAA!!!!!

  4. Moosehawk says:

    Haven’t seen any RIAA posts in a while. They must be hanging somewhat low?

  5. cecilsaxon says:

    What the heck does “clean” mean?

  6. forgottenpassword says:


    Basically a laptop I only use for downloading, was paid for in cash, is unregistered, & that I dont use to surf the web or check online accounts that could be traced back to me.

    Maybe overkill, but meh… i got a really good deal on the laptop (could be stolen for all I know *shrug*)

  7. GamblesAC2 says:

    BOOOOYAAA The RIAA finaly gets theirs I’m so psyched about this!!

  8. Uriel says:

    @Moosehawk: perhaps they’re preparing for their own legal battle against the record industry, as their last post indicated that they had absorbed every penny they’d collected for the artists. Some $400 Million, if I remember correctly.

  9. Parting says:

    Common sense : prove that a crime was committed.

  10. Pylon83 says:

    I think the judge got it wrong here. I think the RIAA’s argument that “making available” is copyright infringement has merit. If I offer to give you copyrighted songs, and you choose not to take them, didn’t I break the law?

  11. ironchef says:

    Judge is right.

    Imaginary piracy doesn’t equal real piracy.

    Too bad RIAA. PWND again.

  12. Moosehawk says:

    @NeroDiavolo: Ahh, right-o. That’s something I am definitely waiting for.

    I believe the RIAA is trying to fight their way out of a losing battle as technology develops. More and more [popular] artists are moving to advertising and selling their own records or tracks for cheaper prices (or even free) through download. e.g. Radiohead, Trent Reznor (NiN), Prince, and Coldplay.

    There is talk that even Metallica may sell their following album online after their contract expires. []
    (Although, I highly doubt it)

  13. mechanismatic says:

    @Pylon83: Who’s offering? You’re assuming that having documents in a shared folder means the owner of the shared folder intended for them to be there. Some programs will automatically download or save files to a shared folder. How do you prove intent based on circumstantial evidence?

  14. mac-phisto says:

    @Pylon83: perhaps. but what if i left the songs on the seat of my convertible & you decided to just help yourself?

    the problem with the “shared folder” argument (as i see it) is that programs – particularly the p2p kind – on install, often set up sharing rights on one or more folders.

    you can’t expect someone to be liable just b/c their library happens to be in a default folder which was shared by default when they decided to install a particular program.

  15. Uriel says:


    I think this judge might be the first person of authority to actually get this right. Sure, sharing the material is infringement, but they seem to have never bothered actually proving that anyone actually “shared in the material”, aka downloading it. I.E. I can put whatever I want in a shared folder, but technically, if you can’t show anyone actually downloaded it, who was it shared with, and how could it be considered shared at all without one other person being brought into the equation? Just because the folder is labeled “Shared” and is hosted on the internet, ready for sharing, doesn’t neccessarly mean that anyone actually shared in it, and and committed copyright infringement without proof of it occurring.

  16. stinerman says:


    Congress already has a contingency plan for this: make “conspiracy to commit copyright infringement” a crime.

    The bill has been introduced; it’s on THOMAS somewhere, but I’m too lazy to find it.

  17. boandmichele says:

    @stinerman: you have got to be kidding.

    im moving to norway.

  18. chartrule says:

    what’s next – because you have music on you puter your guilty ?

  19. hi says:

    @chartrule: no silly, if you HAVE a computer, or if you think about getting one in the future you’re guilty.

  20. bravo369 says:

    I am all for any ruling that makes the RIAA actually do their homework before suing someone. They seem to be taking shortcuts, file thousands of lawsuits under the same wordin with little to know evidence. Either way, RIAA is fighting a losing battle and they need to change their business model if they want to have a business 10 years from now.

  21. stacye says:

    @Pylon83: I don’t think so. Are you telling me, that if I purchase a CD, burn it to shared folder so that I can play it through my TiVO and home theatre system, that I’m breaking the law?

    It does not mean that I’m sharing my music with other people just because it’s in a shared folder. The judge is completely right: the RIAA lawyers should have to prove the music was downloaded.

  22. keith4298 says:

    I’d be curious if there’s an argument to be made that since your average p2p only gets a few bytes and not the whole song downloaded from any particular user, you can’t claim that their particular copy was downloaded by anyone.

  23. Lambasted says:

    Cool. Maybe with the RIAA ruling can let people post music again. Ummm…just for listening purposes not to download of course.

    My Congressman better not vote for any Copyright Conspiracy Bill else he’ll not have my vote again.

  24. S-the-K says:

    OMG! A judge with a brain in his head instead of in his ass? Give a gold star to him!

  25. trujunglist says:


    .. and then go to jail for logging into unsecured wifi networks.


  26. TMurphy says:

    I’ve always been wondering- my brothers and I have a collection of CD’s we purchased/received while still all in high school or younger. Now that my older brother is on his own and I’m in college, what’s the legal situation as far as our music collection?

    For the sake of example, if my older brother took all the CDs and put all the music on a secure server, can I legally download the music? Was the music ever able to be considered a mutual asset?