Apparently not satisfied with the outcomes to its civil actions against earthbound mortals, the RIAA has taken to suing the dead. In one of the latest batch of lawsuits, the statement of claim names the recently deceased Gertrude Walton as sole defendant. She stands (or, perhaps, rests) accused of sharing over 700 songs owned by member publishers via peer-to-peer networks:
More than a month after Walton was buried in Beckley, a group of record companies named her as the only defendant in a federal lawsuit. They claimed Walton made more than 700 pop, rock and rap songs available for free on the Internet under the screen name “smittenedkitten.” On Thursday, a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America acknowledged that Walton was probably not the smittenedkitten it is searching for.
What’s most surprising about this is not that the defendant lacks a computer (after all, the RIAA has accused computer-illiterate grandmothers of sharing copyrighted rap music before) or, indeed, an existence; instead, what I find peculiarly perplexing is that their lawyers continue to rely on automated (and, clearly, inaccurate) detection processes to identify targets; further, they fail to perform even rudimentary background research into their potential targets (eg, whether they’re still alive) — despite their recent pledge to do so.
I suppose one can forgive the occasional slip when several thousand defendants are routinely the subjects of litigation (the clerks in their county must be doing quite handsomly). However, considered in light of the RIAA’s track record in these matters — which, I might add, includes such notable actions as RIAA v Lahara, a 13 year-old student, and RIAA v Ward, a macintosh-using grandmother) — this suit is the final nail in the coffin for the authority of their ‘moral’ campaign against filesharing.