Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government Media Music News

Jammie Thomas To Appeal $1.9 Million RIAA Verdict 204

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept.
CNet reports that the lawyers representing Jammie Thomas-Rasset have confirmed she will be fighting the $1.9 million verdict handed down in her case against the RIAA. "The Recording Industry Association of America said on Monday that it had made a phone call to Sibley and law partner Kiwi Camara last week to ask whether Thomas-Rasset wanted to discuss a settlement. An RIAA representative said that its lawyers were told by Sibley that Thomas-Rasset wasn't interested in discussing any deal that required her to admit guilt or pay any money. ... 'She's not interested in settling,' attorney Joe Sibley said in a brief phone interview. 'She wants to take the issue up on appeal on the constitutionality of the damages. That's one of the main arguments — that the damages are disproportionate to any actual harm.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Jammie Thomas To Appeal $1.9 Million RIAA Verdict

Comments Filter:
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @09:48AM (#28580107)

    How does Jammie Thomas stack up against the EXXON Valdez case? EXXON got its punitive damages reduced. Why won't the same arguments work for Ms. Thomas? Any lawyers with opinions out there?

    • by moon3 (1530265) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:43AM (#28580451)
      Can we say bad analogy? I see no parallel between those two cases except that Exxon and Thomas are both being defendants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by causality (777677)

        Can we say bad analogy? I see no parallel between those two cases except that Exxon and Thomas are both being defendants.

        I don't know for sure what the GP was saying. However, rather than balk at this, I will apply just a tiny bit of common sense and see where that takes me.

        Assuming that punitive damages were awarded agains Exxon and that Exxon argued that those damages were excessive and therefore unconstitutional, perhaps Thomas could make a similar argument. I am "assuming" that because there is no other way that the GP's statement could make any sense, therefore it must obviously be what he meant.

        Having establishe

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by value_added (719364)

          Assuming that punitive damages were awarded agains Exxon and that Exxon argued that those damages were excessive and therefore unconstitutional, perhaps Thomas could make a similar argument.

          Actually, the case involved both punitive and compensatory damages. The Supreme Court decided that a 1:1 ratio was the fair upper limit for punitive damages, and reduced it.

          As for the OP, my take is that he's simply way off in left field suggesting that a what happened in a given maritime case has any relevance to this

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        I see no parallel between those two cases except that Exxon and Thomas are both being defendants.

        And that's enough or a parallel. I'm not fully up, but I think the Supreme Court said that punitive damages should be capped at no more than three times actual damages. That's simple, clear, and since there was no actual damage that can be demonstrated, should have punitive damage at 3x zero, for $0. After all, they never addressed her having them illegally, but uploading them, and there is no proof that an
    • Because EXXON basically IS the government? (You know, revolving doors and such.)

    • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:11PM (#28581129) Homepage

      How does Jammie Thomas stack up against the EXXON Valdez case?

      If Exxon had been offered a chance to settle for $5000 at the start, they would have taken it.

      if Exxon had been offered a chance to settle for $5000 after their first court loss, they would have taken it.

      Hence, you can't really compare Exxon to Thomas, as Exxon is not stupid.

      EXXON got its punitive damages reduced.

      If Thomas gets lucky, and the statutory damages are reduced from $80k per song to the statutory minimum of $750 per song, it will still come out to more than the RIAA has repeatedly offered to let her settle for.

      • by CodeBuster (516420) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:52PM (#28581443)
        I am no so certain that Thomas is being stupid by continuing to fight. There are some really good Constitutional points to be argued, particularly with regard to damages, and since she seems willing to go forward then I say lets see how far this goes. Her case, sympathetic or not, has already generated lots of publicity and is seen by many, at least within the technology industry, to be an important part of a larger debate on copyright going forward. If this case is going to be the showdown of the century with the copyright cartels then I say lets have it now; before the RIAA and their Justice Department cronies can get DMCA 2.0 and secret copyright treaties pushed through a distracted Congress without any substantial public debate.
        • by Keeper Of Keys (928206) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @06:36PM (#28583265) Homepage

          It would be a far more interesting test case if she came out and admitted she did it. Then they lawyers would have to make the case that (non-profit) file sharing is actually legal, and/or that the damages are unconstitutional. The last trial was just about the technicalities of whether the prosecution could prove she did it, and they did quite a good job of that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04, 2009 @09:49AM (#28580113)

    Given the track record of her lawyers, she could end up with a life sentence.

    • by Cylix (55374)

      I was thinking something similar, but then again maybe their best bet was to get the maximum insanity.

      Without contrast some things are difficult to perceive. In this scenario, these damages are quite a bit more then the original figure.

      Though I'm not quite banking on it, but perhaps they wanted things to leave reality and enter the realm of complete silliness.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        Without contrast some things are difficult to perceive. In this scenario, these damages are quite a bit more then the original figure.

        Quite a bit? $80 thousand per mp3. She could've produced a new album for each file from that money.

    • Yes, indeed funny.

      But I think this was the plan all along, to determine what the actual realistic "damages" for this type of transgression is. Something perhaps in the "reasonable" range.
    • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:05AM (#28580631)
      If one does the math it is easy to see it was impossible for her to have caused $1.92 million damage. The offense occurred in 2004. Back then a typical cable modem had an upload speed of 256kbps shared with the neighbors. A typical song costs $0.99 on iTunes. An average MP3 is about 3MB. To upload 1.92 million songs would take 2,184.5 days (almost six years) with no protocol overhead, no downtime (infinite nines!), nobody using bandwidth to search for songs, no neighbors using any of the bandwidth, and no one in her house using the internet for anything but uploading files. Kazaa had only existed for three years at the time. She would have had to start before even Napster existed.

      We already know the plantiffs were unsuccessful in several of their download attempts (this was brought up at trial). So it seems many attempts to upload files failed which means it would have taken even longer to cause $1.92 million in damages.

      Oh yeah, also note today is Independence Day in the U.S. Four of the companies that sued her are headquartered outside the U.S. The one U.S. company has a CEO from Canada.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Direct damages, your calculations are probably correct. But the 100 people she gave songs to, also gave them to 100 people, exponentially.

        Personally, I'd have a huge garage sale, transfer all my money off shore, then relocate to a country (indirectly of course) that isn't extradition-friendly to the USA, but still has a nice lifestyle.

        Then I'd photograph myself giving them the bird against a plain white wall and mail it from a general address a few countries away. Like Peru, if I were staying in Uruguay.

        Ju

      • Yeah, but the people she shared to would share too, and that's clearly her fault. They would never have got the songs and shared them without her.

        </sarcasm>

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If one does the math it is easy to see it was impossible for her to have caused $1.92 million damage. The offense occurred in 2004. Back then a typical cable modem had an upload speed of 256kbps shared with the neighbors. A typical song costs $0.99 on iTunes

        Your first mistake is using the iTunes price. Last time I checked, if you get a song from iTunes, it does not include a license to make the song available for an arbitrary, untracked, number of uploads to other people. If you were to write to the rights holders for the songs involved and ask what it would cost to get a license for unrestricted, untracked, copying and redistribution, I am pretty sure they would ask for more than $1 per song.

        This is why it is often expensive for movie producers to use popular

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          "This is why it is often expensive for movie producers to use popular songs in their soundtracks. Did you think they just went to the iTunes store, downloaded a copy for $1, and then used it in their movies, without paying more?"

          Funny thing is, they often get paid for doing this. Ever notice how it started getting to the point where every movie has a popular song in it, or is it that every popular movie produces a popular song? Having a song in a popular movie makes that song that much more popular.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TerranFury (726743)

          Juries do not like it when clearly guilty defendants tell a shifting tale of several badly told obvious lies, and that tends to push damages up.

          ...to $1.92 million. Assuming a household income of $50,233.00 (the median), and moreover assuming that the defendant will cease eating, receiving medial treatment, or paying for rent, water, or electricity from now on, it will take over 38 years to pay that off.

          The jury might as well have just ordered the woman executed.

          • by Archimonde (668883) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:01PM (#28581519) Homepage

            And this is what people just can't get a good perspective on. They are basically sentencing her to be a slave for the rest of her life and that is even more cruel than execution. Moreover when you have nothing it is extremely difficult to make large amounts of money. That 2 million would be very very difficult to pay off even if you are left after the sentence with all possessions you got (job, house etc). But probably they will take everything that woman owns and tell her to pay off the rest. But in both cases the woman is just a slave. She is not a prisoner like in some russian work camp, but all the freedom she has is to live and give everything she gets to some faceless corporation and that is slavery.

            I just find it despicable that those monsters (yes, those people should be put to jail) are ready and willing to destroy your life and seriously impact the life of your relatives just for a few shared files which are fucking sold for $1!

            • And this is what people just can't get a good perspective on. They are basically sentencing her to be a slave for the rest of her life and that is even more cruel than execution

              Or she could take the settlement for a few thousand dollars that the RIAA is still offering her.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by kylemonger (686302)
              She won't be a slave. If she loses the appeals she can file chapter 7 bankruptcy and walk away from the whole mess. Not a happy outcome for her, but way better than having her wages garnished for the rest of her life. The RIAA knows they aren't going to see a penny of that huge settlement if they insist on breaking her; that's why they want to settle for a smaller amount.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)

          Here is the thing, If Itunes is offering the song for $1.00, then it's safe to say that their distribution license is under $1.00 a copy. The Itunes comparison is still valid unless it's fair game to have licensing fees specifically higher then your getting in real life just in case you have to take an infringement case to court.

        • by selven (1556643)
          The GP is not talking about that. He is talking about the (highly debatable) fact that every person whom she uploaded to gets the ability to listen to the song without buying it (presumably at the iTunes price). Therefore (once again this is highly debatable - if you pirate Photoshop that doesn't mean you're willing to shell out 700 bucks for it) the damages is equal to the purchase price * the number of people she uploaded to.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          Last time I checked, if you get a song from iTunes, it does not include a license to make the song available for an arbitrary, untracked, number of uploads to other people. If you were to write to the rights holders for the songs involved and ask what it would cost to get a license for unrestricted, untracked, copying and redistribution, I am pretty sure they would ask for more than $1 per song.

          Correct. However, SoundExchange offers, to anyone who wants them, at $.0019/song/listener (2010 rates, have increased every year). If you can classify your peer-to-peer program as an Internet Radio Server then you can stream over 500 copies of a song for $99.

          If the downloader chooses to store a copy of the stream in a file, rather than just listening to it once, then they are the ones committing copyright infringement.

      • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:14PM (#28581147)
        That's all beside the point. The damages awarded were statutory damages [wikipedia.org] as set by the law. It is impossible for the plaintiff to prove the actual damages because there is no way to tell how many people downloaded those songs that she uploaded so the law sets a default amount. On the first glance it seems that $80K per song is too high but then I don't know the technical argument for it.

        Tactically, I think she and her lawyers are making one mistake after another and she will eventually have to pay a lot more than she could have if she settled right away. Here is the part I don't understand: on one hand she is not "interested in discussing any deal that required her to admit guilt or pay any money" but on the other hand the main argument of the appeal is "that the damages are disproportionate to any actual harm." Doesn't it mean that she is admitting that harm occurred and only challenging the amount? It seems like her main argument is at odds with her unwillingness to accept any guilt or settle for any amount.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:28PM (#28581265) Journal

          I believe she was the one who paid for the Kazza program and originally claimed that the content came with the membership.

          In that case, she could admit damages but not admit her own wrong doing because she acted in what appears to be a legal and lawful way.

        • by vux984 (928602) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @01:15PM (#28581629)

          That's all beside the point. The damages awarded were statutory damages as set by the law.

          Correct.

          However, statutory damages are supposed to be a reasonable substitute for actual damages when actual damages are difficult to compute. So its fair to point out that the 'statutory damages' are not only out of line, but are out of line for any case in this 'class' (of noncommercial p2p infringement), and that they are so out of line that that the statute itself is defective, even unconstitutional.

          On the first glance it seems that $80K per song is too high but then I don't know the technical argument for it.

          There is no technical argument for it. The statute was written to address and punish people who created and sold counterfeit copies of books, movies, records, etc.

          P2p internet sharing didn't exist. At the time to do any serious infringement, you needed replication equipment, and blank media, and so on... it would be time consuming and expensive. The people doing it would have to be deliberately engaged in this, and would almost invariably be charging money to cover their costs. It would almost have to a fairly large scale commercial enterprise to be of significant scale.

          The idea that a barely computer literate person could commit "massive unauthorized distribution infringement" on the same scale, at no cost whatsoever, as essentially a "side effect" of obtaining a few songs for their own personal noncommercial use, via a simple computer program and a few mouse clicks was simply unimagined by the statute authors.

          Doesn't it mean that she is admitting that harm occurred and only challenging the amount? It seems like her main argument is at odds with her unwillingness to accept any guilt or settle for any amount.

          Admitting harm occurred is not the same as admitting personal culpability for the harm.

          Suppose you came over to my house, twisted your ankle on the front step, and then sued me.

          I'm going to deny that I'm responsible. My front step is well maintained, with a solid railing, and a non-slip mat. It is level, clear of toys and other hazards. I refuse to accept guilt or settle. I have done nothing wrong.

          But that's not to say I'm going to deny you were harmed. Your ankle was twisted. I accept that.

          So you sue me, and the jury sides with you. So be it, that's life. Then the court awards you 20,000,000 dollars.

          And I'm in the same position as Jammie. I maintain I did nothing wrong, I agree you twisted your ankle, and am disputing the amount of the award.

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @09:56AM (#28580161) Homepage
    Well she is clearly one of the biggest threats to this world. I think she's got off light. She should have had to pay infinity billion dollars and spend the rest of her life in Guantanamo Bay.
    • Life in Guantanamo? Are you insane? What if the League of Evil breaks her out? No, this clearly calls for the death penalty.

  • by resistant (221968) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:02AM (#28580205) Homepage Journal

    I'm worried that the Supreme Court, should it eventually take this case, might find a way to justify these hugely exorbitant awards on technically narrow and nit-picky grounds that nonetheless are broad enough in reality to make fighting the RIAA essentially a hopeless cause financially for most people. The Kelo decision [reason.com] shows the kind of sloppy reasoning that can lead to appalling results. It surely doesn't help that Jammie appears to be guilty of deliberate file-sharing and tampering with evidence after the fact. One could wish heartily for a much more sympathetic defendant.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:17AM (#28580315) Journal

      I'm not so sure, actually. If the defendant were not clearly guilty, the ruling might simply be overturned. In this case, with it pretty darned likely that she did do what did, the real case here is what kinds of limits should be set for recovering legal damages. Is non-commercial distribution really worth an amount equal to destroying the rest of your life? I would think that the plaintiff would need to show _actual_ damages, or be limited to a nominal fine. That is true for most litigation I'm involved in (architecture/engineering disputes). Unless you get into personal injury and pain-and-suffering cases, you've got to show actual damages and actual repair costs attributed _directly_ to the act. Consequential and incidental damages are very hard to win. Content industries insist on trying to chase the low hanging fruit (file sharers) because the law stacks the deck in their favor. If they can't provide an actual value, they get to select a prescriptive (that's not the right word...I know) value which is orders of magnitude larger than the original item.

      If they can't prove the actual losses, they should get 3x the value (or 5x or 10x, not 100000x). That means finding the people who downloaded the songs and (1) determining that they did not already own that song in another form (vinyl, magnetic, CD, or commercial download) and (2) that they would have purchased the item if it were only available through a commercial site. Simple cause-effect analysis.

      • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:08AM (#28580657) Homepage Journal

        If I had mod points this morning, I would mod parent up. Sicne I don't have any at the moment, I'll argue why someone else should mod parent "insightful" or maybe "informative".

        If the defendant were not clearly guilty, the ruling might simply be overturned.

        This is exactly why I'm pleased that she is appealing the ruling on constitutional grounds. The appellate courts can (and should) look for every other possible basis for deciding a case before they start looking at constitutional issues and setting precedents. Since the preponderance of evidence says that the law was broken, this is now the first good test to see whether the law itself is good. And, ideally, whether the techniques of institutional barratry used by the RIAA and their member corporations are legal.

      • by Solandri (704621) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @11:50AM (#28580957)

        If the defendant were not clearly guilty, the ruling might simply be overturned. In this case, with it pretty darned likely that she did do what did, the real case here is what kinds of limits should be set for recovering legal damages.

        Agreed. If law said the sentence for drunk driving were 20 years, and you wanted to challenge the constitutionality of the long sentence, by definition the defendant would have to have driven drunk. That said, it would be possible to get a more sympathetic defendant in this case - maybe someone who unwittingly fileshared songs. e.g. They installed Kazaa, tried it briefly, and stopped using it not realizing it stayed active in the background sharing their legit MP3 collection (ripped from CDs they owned).

        If they can't prove the actual losses, they should get 3x the value (or 5x or 10x, not 100000x).

        Yeah, I can understand being awarded multiple times the value of the song. If she were penalized just 1x the cost of buying the songs (as some here have proposed), then you'd have nothing to lose by downloading. If you're caught, you only pay as much as if you'd bought it. If you're not caught, you get it for free. So clearly the penalty has to be more than the cost of just buying the songs.

        But the award in this case works out to $1.9 mil / 24 songs = $79k per song. If you look at the RIAA's 2001 marketing stats [azoz.com], they made about $500,000 per new CD release. If you figure a CD averages 8 songs, that's only $60,000 in annual worldwide revenue per song in the first year as a new release. i.e. The award has her paying more per song than the average revenue the RIAA gets per new song in its first year. You don't even need to check if the award is "cruel or unusual punishment." You can tell it's way too high because it makes it a better business model to sue filesharers than to actually sell the songs on the market. The initial $220k award was possibly unconstitutional. The current $1.9 million award is insanity and would destroy capitalism if it stands.

      • by deblau (68023)
        I don't know about architecture cases, but Congress considered your argument, and explicitly rejected it:

        (a) In General.-- Except as otherwise provided by this title, an infringer of copyright is liable for either-- (1) the copyright owner's actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer, as provided by subsection (b); or (2) statutory damages, as provided by subsection (c).

        17 USC 504 [cornell.edu]. Subsection (c) provides, for each copyrighted "work", for a recovery of between $750 and $30,000. The mini

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)
      The RIAA keeps their litigation against sympathetic defendants quiet and trumpets their successes against the more unsavory members of society. They have to - it's all a giant PR game.
    • The Larry Flynt "Im the worst and if I can get justice, anyone can" train of thought does have its merits.

  • Well DUH! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:08AM (#28580255)

    Seriously, who could not have seen this coming.

    This verdict had to have been the RIAA's worst nightmare. They had to know, as they left the courthouse that they had just snatched ultimate defeat from the jaws of temporal victory.

    NOW it all comes into play again, out from under easily impressed small town judges and professionally packed juries.

    The entire investigative tactic, the improper application of laws, (not to mention that little phrase containing the words "Cruel or Unusual Punishment") comes under high level review.

    They can't have wanted this. They would have been happy with 100K verdict. This is their worst nightmare.

    • Re:Well DUH! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ae1294 (1547521) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:34AM (#28580407) Journal

      This verdict had to have been the RIAA's worst nightmare.

      I don't know about worst nightmare but you know something is up when they want to talk about a deal after they won the case!

      • by MarkvW (1037596)

        Of course they talk settlement after they won the case! Nothing strange about that when the defendant has no way of actually paying the judgment.

        • by ae1294 (1547521)

          Nothing strange about that when the defendant has no way of actually paying the judgment

          From what I understand she has no way to pay much of any settlement at this point so what where they going to offer her?

          Well you owe us 1.9 Million but we'll take a hundred bucks and you can do some TV ads for us?

    • Re:Well DUH! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DJRumpy (1345787) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:37AM (#28580417)
      I have to agree. This has blown this issue out of the 'techie' blogs and sites, and into the mainstream. I actually had non-technical folk ask me if I'd heard about it. This has far more visibility than I think the RIAA wanted. They may claim to be all about 'educating the public', but we know that's not the case: http://www.groundreport.com/Media_and_Tech/Judge-Orders-RIAA-Hearing-to-be-Televised-RIAA-Fil [groundreport.com]

      Any sensible person has to look at this and think WTF? I still have to wonder how they could have ever come out of this with such a large judgement for 24 songs unless the defense was being purposely stupid not to put too fine a point on it. It just boggles the mind that a judgement this large could come down with any sort of reasonable argument from the defense.
      • Re:Well DUH! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:55AM (#28580561)

        This has far more visibility than I think the RIAA wanted. They may claim to be all about 'educating the public', but we know that's not the case:

        When a monied interests talks about "educating" anyone, you can be sure of one thing: they are using the definition of "educated" where "you are 'educated' if you agree with me."

  • Am I Alone? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @10:29AM (#28580383)
    Am I alone in thinking this is exactly what the (pro bono) defense wanted? As I see it, wearing my tinfoil hat, they wanted an insane fine to be imposed so they could defeat it as unconstitutional. They would then establish the "right" fine appropriate with the offense (many opinions on this but most agree it should be in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands - these are songs that sell for 99 cents a piece, after all...). Once that's established, THEN they can fire up their class action suit which is where the real money is to be made. I know I'm being all conspiracy-theory with this but I think most of us agree that the defense didn't exactly do the best job possible and they are very intelligent people so I'm left wondering why - why didn't they do the best job possible? And the only answer I keep coming back to is because there's no money to be made winning _THIS_ case but there's truckloads to be made from winning the class action suit down the road.
    • by causality (777677)

      I know I'm being all conspiracy-theory with this

      These days, "conspiracy-theory" means "acknowledge that there is such a thing as long-term strategy." It can also be synonymous with "acknowledge that large organizations always act to further their own interests."

      • by foobsr (693224)
        These days, "conspiracy-theory" means "acknowledge that there is such a thing as long-term strategy." It can also be synonymous with "acknowledge that large organizations always act to further their own interests."

        This should be a modded 'too insightful'.

        CC.
        • Well it's almost too insightful. Insightful would be to recognize that large organizations do not further their own interests, but people at high levels determine what those supposed interests are. And typically those people further the supposed large organizations' interests only when they further their own personal interests. Defense lawyers at least are very clearly trying to further their own interests. Their strategy may very well work but their profile has definitely increased. If their strategy
    • by selven (1556643)
      It's an extremely risky strategy that way and Jammie will now have to sit through even more court sessions. Unfortunately she doesn't strike me as the kind of altruistic person who would do that just to establish a precedent for others.
  • I wouldn't be surprised if at the appeal her fine is raised to a round $20 million dollars.

  • by selven (1556643) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:02PM (#28581045)
    Madoff - $60 billion, 150 years - $400 million per year Thomas - $2 million / $400 million = 0.005 years = 2 days in prison. It all works out nicely.
  • Ok heres a question for everyone. Say you make $30,000 a year. How are you expected to pay a judgment of nearly two million dollars? Thats more than you'd make in several lifetimes. Do they garnish a percentage of your wages or negotiate installment payments?

    • How are you expected to pay a judgment of nearly two million dollars? Thats more than you'd make in several lifetimes.

      I would guess that a trust account is set up with $1,000 in it and let the interest pay them until paid off at which time you get the principal back. Depending on interest, it could take a while.

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      Charge people for downloading the music you are sharing?

      Google AdWords?

  • by Grond (15515) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:08PM (#28581113) Homepage

    One commenter made a comparison to the Exxon Valdez case and other punitive damages cases where the damages award was reduced to be more proportionate to the actual harm. Unlike those cases, there is a statutory damages regime here, and long standing Supreme Court precedent establishes that courts must be very deferential to awards within the statutory framework. In particular, statutory damages are reviewed under a standard even more deferential than the already deferential abuse of discretion standard: whether the award is "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable." St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Williams, 251 U.S. 63, 66-67 (1919). Also see, Douglas v. Cunningham, 294 U.S. 207, 210 (1935) (Congress's purpose in enacting the statutory-damage provision of the 1909 Copyright Act and its delineation of specified limits for statutory damages "take[] the matter out of the ordinary rule with respect to abuse of discretion") (via [blogspot.com]). Appellate courts are also somewhat loathe to disturb jury verdicts. The standard in the Eighth Circuit, where the Thomas case was decided, is whether 'no rational jury' could have found as the jury did. Dace v. ACF Indus., 722 F.2d 374, 376 (8th Cir. 1983).

    You might say, well, the ratio of damages to actual harm here is roughly a factor of 80,000, so surely that is sufficient even under that high standard. The RIAA is likely to argue that only the increased damages due to willful infringement are punitive and that the the underlying statutory damages are not inherently punitive. Should it prevail on that theory, then the resulting substantially lower ratio is likely to be seen as constitutionally permissible. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has upheld ratios as high as 113:1, for example, and the ratio alone is not sufficient to overturn the award. Phillip Morris USA v. Williams, 549 U.S. 346 (2007).

    Another commenter made reference to the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment does not apply to civil cases (not even the "excessive fines" clause). See, Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977).

    But the real crux of the issue is that the Copyright Act simply does not make an exception for individual non-commercial infringers. Assuming the facts of the case are accurate--and appellate courts do not like to disturb jury fact finding--then by the plain language of the statute Ms. Thomas is liable for a minimum of several thousand dollars in statutory damages. In my opinion the most likely outcome is that the appellate courts will let the verdict stand but strongly suggest that the legislature revise the Act to exempt individual non-commercial infringers from the statutory damages regime.

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      I think the jury was responding to two things. In the original trial she was found to be liable for damages of over $200,000 but the trial was thrown out because of bad jury instructions. In the second trial there were numerous attempts to deflect any fact-finding through obfuscation involving various technical strategies, including referring to the possiblity of a wireless router when no such device was ever used.

      Finally, to top things off, Jammie herself got caught having destroyed evidence (the origina

Man will never fly. Space travel is merely a dream. All aspirin is alike.

Working...