By Caitlin Tremblay
The music biz is awash with lawsuits these days. There have
been copyright cases and fights over digital royalties, and now
Internet radio giant Pandora is filing a suit of its own. The
personal radio service has sued licensing group the American
Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, in an attempt to
set "reasonable" licensing fees, according to Bloomberg (hat
tip: The Verge).
Pandora says it has been trying, unsuccessfully, to come to
an agreement with ASCAP for over a year. Now the company is
asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New
York to intervene with a blanket licensing fee that covers all
of the work ASCAP represents, from Beyonce to Alan Jackson to
Duke Ellington. (The Hollywood Reporter has the petition.)
Pandora also claims that other more traditional broadcasters
are receiving preferential treatment. Clear Channel, which owns
an Internet radio service called iHeartRadio, reached a
licensing deal with ASCAP earlier this year and Pandora says it
wasn't extended these terms. ASCAP hasn't commented on the suit.
By Dan Brillman
Are online legal services a peek at the not-too-distant
future? An article in The Wall Street Journal looks at various
sites, some of which just offer quick and cheap answers to
questions like what's the difference between a will and a trust,
while others are extensions of traditional brick-and-mortar
At pearl.com, for example, consumers can ask direct
questions to lawyers, doctors, mechanics, computer technicians
and home repair professionals. The cost depends on the
complexity of the question and how soon you need the answer, but
the average is about $30, according to WSJ. You can also get a
cyber-lawyer on retainer for $99 a month through the site, whose
professionals are hired after background checks. DirectLaw.com
has a different model and serves more to connect consumers with
its 250 law-firm members, who will provide online consulting.
Being lumped in with tradesmen might ruffle traditionalists
who fear the ill effects of quickie and faceless counsel, but
Internet business has always been about tapping new revenue
streams. Eighty percent of questions at pearl.com, which claims
over $100 million in annual revenue, were for lawyers.
By Suhrith Parthasarathy
A former police officer who said that fellow cops illegally
accessed her driver's license record more than 400 times to peek
at her photograph will receive more than $1 million, reports Wired.
Anne Marie Rasmusson, formerly with the St. Paul Police
Department, claimed that between 2005 and 2012, 140 officers
checked out her Department of Motor Vehicles record with no
official reason, according to the Minneapolis Post. Rasmusson
said she became aware of this in 2009, when a former colleague
mentioned that he and his partner had often viewed her driver's
license photo. Rasmusson, Wired says, was once overweight and
had undergone a dramatic makeover.
In August 2011, Rasmusson said she contacted the Department
of Public Safety requesting it to restrict access to her DMV
file. When she explained her reason, a worker in the office
investigated and found that Rasmusson's records had been
illegally accessed by cops for many years, Wired reports.
Finally, in March 2012, Rasmusson filed a data breach
lawsuit against the agencies, individual officers and governing
bodies involved in auditing the DMV database, according to City Pages. After she had reached settlements with the St. Paul City
Council and other smaller communities, the Minneapolis City
Council agreed after a Nov. 2 meeting to pay $392,000 to settle
the claims without admitting any wrongdoing. The total awards
come to just over $1 million.
By Terry Baynes
A group of plaintiffs' lawyers are trying crowd-sourcing as
a way to overcome a landmark 2011 Supreme Court ruling that
thwarted class actions.
Last year, the Supreme Court in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion
ruled that consumers who signed AT&T phone contracts with
mandatory arbitration clauses had waived the right to bring a
class action against the telecom giant. Unhappy consumers should
instead arbitrate their claims individually, said the court. The
decision was derided by plaintiffs' lawyers and consumer rights
activists as a "get out of jail free card" for companies,
allowing them to add arbitration clauses to their contracts --
as Netflix, PayPal and Sony, among others, have done.
Now two plaintiffs' lawyers, Philip Friedman and Gary Mason,
are launching a website loosely modeled after Groupon to see if
there is a way to undercut the Concepcion ruling. Just as
Groupon measures consumer enthusiasm for a deal,
ConsumersCount.org gauges how many consumers are willing to file
arbitration claims against an offending company, with the goal
of being able to inundate businesses with such claims.
"Browse. Submit. Act. Are You Outraged? Did It Happen To
You? You Build The Crowd, We'll Make The Case," reads
ConsumersCount.org, which elicits consumer responses on a
variety of situations, including Sirius XM's use of "unwanted
robocalls" and Nissan failing "to refund vets lease payments."
Beneath each type of claim is a percentage bar, measuring
the level of consumer interest. Once enough people indicate they
have had the specific problem, the bar turns from red to green.
That's the cue for Friedman and Mason, or lawyers they work
with, to move forward, filing masses of individual arbitrations
against the company. Friedman and Mason don't give a specific
number but are hoping to be able to overwhelm a company with
hundreds or even thousands of complaints.
The idea is that the arbitration claims are relatively easy
for plaintiffs' lawyer to file en masse, but they become a
headache for a corporation, which will be forced to deal with
each claim individually, explains Mason. "If it happens enough,
companies will want class actions again. They're not going to
like having multiple arbitrations and being exposed to them
endlessly. We want to prove: Be careful what you wish for,"
Consumers and plaintiffs' lawyers can submit their own
complaints to the site, too, but not everyone is impressed with
ConsumersCount.org's crowd-sourcing approach.
Andrew Pincus of Mayer Brown, who represented AT&T in the
Concepcion case, called the site a "marketing front for
plaintiffs' law firms, masquerading as a consumer site." He said
if the group was truly interested in helping consumers, it would
encourage them to file a complaint with regulators.
Alan Kaplinsky, an attorney at Ballard Spahr who has helped
financial companies draft their arbitration agreements, called
the new website "very misguided" and a "great disservice" to
consumers. He noted that arbitration allows consumers to resolve
their disputes in months, not years, and at little to no
expense. Companies bear most of the cost under the rules of the
American Arbitration Association and JAMS Inc, the two major
arbitration administrators, he said.
Following Concepcion, company lawyers predicted that
consumers blocked from court would seek redress through the
arbitration system. But according to the AAA, based in New York
City, there hasn't been a large influx of claims. The AAA says
it typically handles between 1,000 and 1,500 individual consumer
arbitrations a year. Richard Naimark, the group's senior vice
president, reported a slight recent increase, but "nothing
really substantial at this point."
Summary Judgments for November 5
Summary Judgments for November 2
Summary Judgments for November 1
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