Thursday, July 27, 2006

More On Martha Russis

As blog readers who have reviewed all the declarations know (see yesterday’s post with the complete list of links to the 11 documents), Martha Russis’ was unique, for two related reasons:

1. Her estimate of anticipated claims awards, $110,000, was by far the highest.

2. Unlike the others, she had a mix of registered and unregistered articles. A search of the Copyright Office’s online database confirms that Russis registered hundreds of works in 1999, supplementing about a dozen others registered in 1998.

That would mean that Russis has claims for copyrights registered before the filing of the three class actions in 2000, which were later consolidated into this settlement. These are not B claims (registrations between the filing of the suits and the settlement’s arbitrary cutoff date of December 31, 2002). They are not even B claims that were converted to A’s by the equally mysterious last-minute settlement amendment of the summer of 2005, which grandfathered in two new infringers, Amazon and HighBeam. They are “pure” A claims. I'm not licensed to give legal advice, but I think she could have done far better for herself by opting out of the class and pursuing on her own a slam-dunk case of willful infringement of tons of registered works.

[UPDATE: My flat statement that all of her infringed works are "pure A's" is not correct. See the next post for a clarification.]

Therefore, Russis is anomalous for this group, which I’ve dubbed the Incredible Shrinking C Claimant Declarants. She’s much more like the named plaintiffs, who have a preponderance of A, or A and B, claims. She is unrepresentative of the class, which overwhelmingly consists of C’s; or at best she’s a kind of crossover class member with a foot in each camp.

What’s abundantly clear, however, is that even without the looming Damoclean sword of the C Reduction, which would render her declaration (and the others’) totally ridiculous, Martha Russis has not undermined the arguments of the objectors. She has reinforced them. The current state of the evidence shows that Russis would want the settlement to be approved so she could collect her A and B awards, which without a doubt comprise the lion’s share (almost certainly all but $10,000 or so) of her anticipated $110,000 windfall.

Finally -- and this is addressed directly to Martha Russis -- I am sorry to hear about your mother’s health issues. But that is not a good enough reason to screw the class. The law says that you, and the lawyers who recruited you to write this declaration, have to do better than that. You can't argue that your comparatively trivial inconvenience outweighs shutting out the 99-plus-percent of the class with no compensation and, to boot, with an overbroad release that forecloses everyone else's options to pursue future claims.

Does anyone out there know how to find this lady and get her side of the story?

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