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The Courts Music Piracy

Supreme Court May Tune In To Music Download Case 339

Posted by samzenpus
from the from-on-high dept.
droopus writes "The US Supreme Court is weighing into the first RIAA file-sharing case to reach its docket, requesting that the music labels' litigation arm respond to a case testing the so-called 'innocent infringer' defense to copyright infringement. The case pending before the justices concerns a federal appeals court's February decision ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 — $750 a track — for file-sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader. The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400 — or $200 per song. That's an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright act. Harper is among the estimated 20,000 individuals the RIAA has sued for file-sharing music. The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying."
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Supreme Court May Tune In To Music Download Case

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  • Look (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:33PM (#33665416) Homepage

    We all know the girl was a bit stupid ("I didn't know it was illegal"? Seriously? That's your defense?) What should be focused on is the judgement...$750 per track? What's bad is that's on the low-end compared to some of their other lawsuits :/

    • Re:Look (Score:4, Informative)

      by mark72005 (1233572) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:38PM (#33665494)
      I think it's intended to be punitive.
      • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hcmtnbiker (925661) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:50PM (#33665710)
        And just out of curiosity can someone tell me why punitive damages should be awarded to the plaintiff? Why should someone make more money in a court of law then they otherwise would. I mean real damages I'm ok with, they're real. Punitive damages though are just some arbitrary number assigned to case. The plaintiffn has no right to that money, it doesn't belong to them, so why should they be awarded it.
        • Re:Look (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Surt (22457) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:59PM (#33665852) Homepage Journal

          Who else can you award it to? The state? So that the state would then have an interest in finding for one side?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Public cash burning?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by characterZer0 (138196)

            Burn the money. Then it increases the value of the dollar and helps everyone.

            • Re:Look (Score:4, Funny)

              by magarity (164372) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:49PM (#33666650)

              Burn the money. Then it increases the value of the dollar and helps everyone
               
              Federal Reserve Notes are created so the Federal Reserve can pay for Treasury Notes the federal government forces on it. Burning or otherwise destroying cash just means there is less in circulation to be taxed to buy back the T-Notes. And since work had to be done somewhere along the line to earn the cash, destroying it when its in the private sector erases the wealth created by doing work and that hurts everyone.

          • by cgenman (325138)

            Where do parking tickets go?

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by Surt (22457)

              To the city, typically. But cities have a legitimate interest in parking control.

              • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

                by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:27PM (#33666326) Homepage

                True, but the government does have a legitimate interest in copyright control as well. Or else we wouldn't have copyright laws in the first place, ostensibly. And supposedly we have protections in place to prevent punitive traffic fines from becoming cash cows for cities.

                Punitive fines are just that: a form of punishment to deter rules violations. When you go to jail for 2 years for breaking into an Ikea, you don't go to Ikea jail where they make you build crappy Swedish furniture for their profits. If you shoplift from Ikea, you're hit with a fine that goes to the state, not Ikea. Why is it, then, that if you shoplift from the RIAA, you're hit with a massive punitive fine that goes straight to the RIAA?

                • Re:Look (Score:4, Interesting)

                  by Surt (22457) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#33666586) Homepage Journal

                  First, traffic fines are a cash cow for cities, that's why they invest so much in enforcement. Whether or not that should be, it is.

                  I, personally, find there to be a meaningful difference between a two party issue (finee vs state, decision to be made by state in parking enforcement), vs a three party issue (finee vs copyright holder, decision to be made by state). If the state is motivated financially to find for the holder, we may as well roll up the holder into the state formally, and let us all vote on how we want copyright enforcement to work, rather than having those decisions made by a private organization.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by spazdor (902907)

                Doesn't prevent them from experiencing perverse incentives, and it doesn't mean we can trust them to allocate parking space and enforcement in a way that's motivated only by concerns of public usefulness and not by the city's unrelated budget headaches.

          • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Nidi62 (1525137) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:38PM (#33666470)
            Have punitive damages go into an account that is used to fund Public Defenders, or something similar. Help keep corporations that can afford $10,000 an hour lawyers from going after people that, if they are lucky, can get help only from a guy that ranked 49th out of 50 in his law school and is working 5 cases at once, and if they are unlucky can't afford a lawyer at all. A court room should be a level playing field, otherwise justice cannot be said to have been achieved.
            • Re:Look (Score:5, Informative)

              by mark72005 (1233572) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#33666592)
              Corporations don't buy $10k an hour lawyers to work their legal issues. They retain a firm for millions a year.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MightyYar (622222)

            Who else can you award it to?

            Education. Just evenly distribute it to school districts per-capita.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by muindaur (925372)

          I agree the sum awarded is excessive. If she appealed that in the Supreme Court she can get it reduced as the Constitution does place a 'reasonable amount' on damages and fines.

          The case of McDonalds v. the Coffee in Lap Lady for example.

          McDs appealed the million plus dollar ruling and had it reduced to $300,000. The Supreme Court decided it was excessive to award over a million for her injuries.

          From a Business Law standpoint my professor taught me this. Check to see IF they can pay the fine AND then sue. It

          • Re:Look (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:16PM (#33666134)

            The case of McDonalds v. the Coffee in Lap Lady for example.McDs appealed the million plus dollar ruling and had it reduced to $300,000. The Supreme Court decided it was excessive to award over a million for her injuries.

            No they did not. It was the trial judge who reduced the punitive damages (from 2.7 million dollars to 480,000), and while McDonalds did appeal, as did Liebeck, they eventually settled out of court anyway.

            I hope your professor didn't teach you the facts of this case, because he got it wrong. Also...the jury in the case decided their punitive damages based on 2 days worth of McDonalds coffee sales. Ironic, no?

          • Re:Look (Score:4, Informative)

            by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:59PM (#33666780) Homepage Journal

            I agree the sum awarded is excessive. If she appealed that in the Supreme Court she can get it reduced as the Constitution does place a 'reasonable amount' on damages and fines.

            I agree that the $750 per mp3 file statutory damages award is constitutionally excessive, and should be struck down. However, that issue does not appear to be presented in connection with this particular appeal.

        • Tort reform as a movement (in part) wants to address the approach of the legal system to punitive damages.

          This however is not a punitive damage award, but a statutory damage. "a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just."

          So the judge did give her the minimum penalty per offense.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by TheRaven64 (641858)

            This however is not a punitive damage award, but a statutory damage

            You seem confused about the terminology. Punitive damages can be statutory. The opposite of punitive is compensatory. Punitive damages are awarded to punish the person committing the act, compensatory damages are awarded to compensate the victim. Often, compensatory damages are linked to actual damages (i.e. the prosecution must show that they were harmed to the amount of $n to be awarded $n of compensation). Punitive damages may award either a fixed amount or some multiple of $n, to act as a deterrent

        • If you must have imaginary property, you must also have imaginary damages. I'm actually not kidding, that's what statutory damages are.
        • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Defenestrar (1773808) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:12PM (#33666076)
          I'm more concerned about the fact that the suit is against someone who was a minor at the time of the incident. It seems to me that the guardian (parents) should be responsible in a civil case, and a criminal case (which this isn't) should have taken place in a juvenile court (speedily - you know, all that 6th Amendment stuff).
    • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:40PM (#33665526)
      That's how the innocent infringement defense works. Since you weren't aware you shouldn't be liable to the same extent. The other options are no leniency or letting a person completely off the hook. I'm not sure what the right amount would be, but it's much more reasonable than the $750 minimum.

      $200 is definitely a deterrent, not sure that it's a reasonable amount, but it's much more in the realm of reasonable. Especially given that she'll likely have to pay court costs.

      The defense wouldn't exist if it was that cut and dry. It's really more a matter of whether or not it applies in this case.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        I would think reasonable would be triple damages, so $3 per song sounds about right. Sure that is not a whole lot, but 200x or 750x damages is even crazier. Not the courts fault that their property is so cheap.

    • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:42PM (#33665566)

      We all know the girl was a bit stupid ("I didn't know it was illegal"? Seriously? That's your defense?) What should be focused on is the judgement...$750 per track? What's bad is that's on the low-end compared to some of their other lawsuits :/

      I'll give you another lawsuit: Apple Inc. vs. Psystar. Psystar was found guilty of making about 750 illegal copies of MacOS X and was ordered to pay $30,000 for copyright infringement. That is just $40 for each copy of software that retailed for $129. (There was a small matter of DMCA violation as well, but that wouldn't be the case here). And you think $750 for a copy of a $0.99 song is anywhere near reasonable?

      There was a recent case where the judge overruled the jury on the grounds that anything over $2,250 is so extraordinarily wrong that the judge cannot possibly allow it and has a duty to overrule the jury. That doesn't mean that $2,250 would be right, it means that it is not so extraordinarily wrong that the judge is forced to overrule it, he usually has to let decisions of the jury stand even if he disagrees with them. Unless they are so unworldly bad that they cannot be allowed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How many copies of songs was the girl proven to have made?

      • Re:Look (Score:4, Informative)

        by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:59PM (#33665842) Homepage Journal

        Psystar was also ordered to pay Apple's legal fees. Furthermore, the exact penalty for infringement was likely lower because Apple did not register their copyright on OS X with the Copyright Office. By law, a plaintiff that does not have a registered copyright is limited to collecting actual damages, while those who register their copyrights can collect punitive damages. (I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice)

      • Re:Look (Score:4, Informative)

        by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:21PM (#33666212) Homepage Journal
        I thought with the PyStar case that PyStar had actually bought the copies of the OS off of the shelf, so Apple couldn't hit them for the full cost of the software. They ended up having to go with a much less effective "breaking the EULA on 750 copies of the software" case instead, which is why the judgement in that part was so low. Of course Apple was able to nail them with the DMCA violations instead, which have much sharper teeth because it was written by the recording industry.
    • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lovedumplingx (245300) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:44PM (#33665586)

      It may sound like a stupid defense but honestly some people out there just didn't/still don't know that sharing certain (copyrighted) files is wrong.

      About 5 years ago (from what I've heard as this was before my time) someone at my company was selling DVDs to co-workers and made some statement via an email to everyone in the company that it wasn't a problem if he ran out as he'd just make some more. He truly had no idea that what he was doing was illegal until the legal department and the IT department blasted him.

      No one reads the FBI warnings at the beginning of films (and music doesn't really have one of those) so ignorance really is valid point one could make.

      • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Surt (22457) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:01PM (#33665898) Homepage Journal

        It's not wrong, it's illegal. There's an important difference.

      • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moryath (553296) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:04PM (#33665926)

        What I find more entertaining is how the MafiAA - who've been slapped back and forth for filing false testimony (perjury), filing mountains of paperwork trying to bury defendants (barratry), caught in price-fixing collusion (conspiracy), falsifying evidence (forgery), providing "evidence" that was the result of deliberate computer crime on the part of their own "investigators", using "investigators" that they knew were not licensed for the investigations, and repeatedly filing SLAPP lawsuits against groups like the EFF - have the temerity to still be pushing this garbage.

        Oh, and then there's their abusive filings of dozens if not hundreds of lawsuits at once, based on nothing but "information and belief" with no actual evidence, where they try to get the identities of people and then harass and threaten them in what has been best described as an organized, big-business-sanctioned extortion ring.

        What a lot of these judges in the past have written at the lower-court level, especially when they greenlight these extortion racket tactics, make me suspect bribery to be in play as well.

        • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shadowfaxcrx (1736978) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:14PM (#33666098)

          What I find more entertaining is how the MafiAA - who've been slapped back and forth for filing false testimony (perjury), filing mountains of paperwork trying to bury defendants (barratry), caught in price-fixing collusion (conspiracy), falsifying evidence (forgery), providing "evidence" that was the result of deliberate computer crime on the part of their own "investigators", using "investigators" that they knew were not licensed for the investigations, and repeatedly filing SLAPP lawsuits against groups like the EFF - have the temerity to still be pushing this garbage.

          Yes, and yet the girl is "vexatious" for demanding that her legal right to a fair trial be upheld.

          The fact that today's music largely sucks is far from the only reason I haven't bought music in years. (And no, I don't download it illegally either).

    • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

      by veganboyjosh (896761) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:45PM (#33665604)
      Ignorance is no excuse, and all of that, but I really think we'll start to see more of this. As filesharing becomes easier on the user's end, how is a new/naive/young user supposed to know it's illegal? I mean, type the name of any current pop artist into Google, followed by "rapidshare", "yousendit" or one of the myriad other large file sharing services, and usually one of the first links Google finds is the file itself, ready for download.

      The fact that these types of cases are coming up again and again make clear that it's a contentious issue, at least for some. Someone out there takes issue with all this content being freely available.

      To be clear, I'm not arguing one way or another on the filesharing/copyright issue. I'm just saying that as we move forward with the web and user interfaces, and searchability, then a 12 year old kid who has some brains and can figure out some clever search "hacks" becomes able to just find files that are publicly available to download with no warning, no mention of "this could be copyrighted", etc.

      I've tried explaining the process for finding files like this to my father, who is probably a lot like most of your parents. Able to get online, but not really understanding the full intrecacies of the interwebs. I tried explaining how illegal this is, and that it's up to him to take that leap. I'm sure there are teenagers and preteens out there figuring this stuff out, too. Do you think that they're explaining the legalities and potential consquences to their friends, when they pass on the instructions?

      As this knowledge passed down to further "generations" ofkids, and technology progresses, I could actually see how an ignorance defense could be fairly legitimate.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by equex (747231)
        Ignorance is an excuse as long as there is no law classes in the public school system. You cant assume people just 'know' law.
        • Re:Look (Score:5, Interesting)

          by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:14PM (#33666100)

          Ignorance is an excuse as long as there is no law classes in the public school system. You cant assume people just 'know' law

          This is just a guess, but I'm not sure it is physically possible to know all the law anymore.

          State, Local, Federal, Treaties... they all change, and some of the items being changed are thousands of pages long. Not only that, but written in legal language which is NOT readable by your normal citizen.

          Let's say you go on vacation to some state park and decide to build a campfire. Is there a fire moratorium in effect? What do you have to do to make sure that your campfire is to code. Are there also local codes which you have to follow? What are your liabilities? Hope you have a few hours to go down to the government offices to look up the code (or the library) to read up on what you need to do to build your campfire. Oh crap, a CFL in your battery powered lantern died. Is there a disposal station nearby, what are your responsiblities for recycling/disposing of the lamp. I know there is Federal and State laws in place... Or are they laws, some might be rules imposed by the EPA at the federal level, or rules imposed by the state EPA. When was the last time those rules were updated, have they changed... etc.

          Granted those are fairly mundane examples, but the concept that you are responsible for following the laws even if they are obscure is commonplace.

      • Re:Look (Score:5, Informative)

        by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:57PM (#33666746) Homepage Journal

        Ignorance is no excuse, and all of that, but I really think we'll start to see more of this. As filesharing becomes easier on the user's end, how is a new/naive/young user supposed to know it's illegal?

        The law is quite explicit that if a person did not know they were infringing a copyright, then they are an innocent infringer, and the statutory damages are limited, unless... there was a copyright notice on the thing they were infringing. Then they don't qualify for the defense.

        The 5th Circuit erroneously held that she is precluded from the defense because some other copy somewhere, which she had never seen, had a copyright notice.

        Its ruling was ridiculous.

        • Re:Look (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:37PM (#33667306) Homepage

          Least of all I liked the logic they seemed to use which was an awfully lot like "you should know nothing is free to share". It's like the MafiAA was handed a big "only CDs and DVDs and BluRays you buy in a store (or online store) is legal, everything you download for free is likely illegal" baseball bat to beat the market with. I hope the Supreme Court can see how incredibly destructive that logic would be.

    • by Qzukk (229616)

      Hey, the stupidity defense works for CEOs, so it's worth a shot!

  • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:36PM (#33665462) Homepage Journal

    Really RIAA? Really? You are accusing someone else of "relentless legal jockeying". /head asplodes

  • The MPAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dracos (107777) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:37PM (#33665468)

    ... is complaining about someone else's relentless legal jockeying? How much blacker can the pot get while impugning the kettle's color? Until this girl (or any other individual) has the means to write and buy their own federal legislation, the MPAA should STFU.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:41PM (#33665538) Journal
    If I'm going to face a life time punishment (how long it takes to pay off a million dollar fine), it might as well be for something worthy.
    • by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:46PM (#33665624) Homepage Journal

      Why stop there? Kill the motherfuckers who hired him too.

    • by jgagnon (1663075)

      Steal the toupee off the head of every RIAA lawyer?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sorak (246725)

        Haven't they figured out the whole "shave your head and pretend it's a macho thing" strategy yet? I saw "The Expendables", and the cast looked like a rogaine test control group. you'd think RIAA lawyers would have learned the same trick.

    • That sound nice, and I'd like to think the same thing of myself, but then I might remind you of the Man I Killed, by the ultimate DIYers, NOFX:

      When they tightly strap me in, give me lethal injection,
      Just a few moments to live, no remorse for what I did,
      Was for the betterment of man, I gave the utmost sacrifice,
      Before more damage could be done I took his life.

      There was a split second of silence when the dart punctured the skin,
      Beady eyes rolled back in head, the body dropped from the poison,
      They cou
  • Vexatious? No $#@! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bornagainpenguin (1209106) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:41PM (#33665540)

    The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying.

    Since the advent of these cases it has been clear that the intent was to bury people financially and for the **AA to use the courts as a bludgeon to scare the rest of the populace--not the pursuit of justice. Now they're upset because someone with nothing to lose (ruinous legal judgments that cannot reasonably be paid back by an individual tends to create that mentality) has decided to use their own strategy against them? Tough $#@! **AA. Bed. Made. Lie.

    How do you like this taste of your own medicine? Hopefully this kind of thing will catch on and more people will choose to drag their cases out for as long as possible and this will cost the **AA so much more than they anticipated.

    --bornagainpenguin

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:00PM (#33665856)
      It's more silly than that. From what I've read, the defendant wants the case to go to trial instead of being forced into a settlement. That's "vexatious" in the eyes of the RIAA.
      • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:11PM (#33666048)

        Well, yes and no. The RIAA's position is that her petition has been already asked and answered by the courts, twice.

        What gets me is that if the RIAA is correct, then her settlement offer of $1200 should have been acceptable, but they refused it. So their own vexatious accusation makes them in the wrong for rejecting a fair settlement, which is in and of itself vexatious if not frivolous.

        • by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @02:03PM (#33666812) Homepage Journal

          Well, yes and no. The RIAA's position is that her petition has been already asked and answered by the courts, twice.

          In the first place, that would be irrelevant; that's what appeals are for, to correct mistakes by the lower court.

          In the second place, the lower court ruled in Ms. Harper's favor on this issue. The District Judge ruled that she was NOT disqualified from asserting an innocent infringement defense by reason of copyright notices being affixed to some copies in some record store somewhere, which she had never seen.

    • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:27PM (#33666320)

      The big deal here is that the RIAA's standard modus operandi of retracting all charges before they have to present evidence and support their case and then return to slam the defendant with more financial ruin threats outside of court will not work. The supreme court will not take any of that bullshit, and if they try to pull out, they will just lose, plain and simple. And not just the case, they will lose face and credibility (what little they have).

      By forcing the issue, Harper is scaring them into the one scenario they were never willing to face - playing the game through to the end.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        By forcing the issue, Harper is scaring them into the one scenario they were never willing to face - playing the game through to the end.

        Well said.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bluefoxlucid (723572)

        This is why the supreme court is so vital. It does not take ANY bullshit of ANY kind. When faced with technical issues judges do not understand, they become quite pissed at people who want to wave a lot of jargon and cloud issues; the Supreme Court Justice position is one of the highest in the country, and making a mistake has such wide-reaching impacts that you WILL be embarrassed, publicly, for being shammed. These people do not want to be fucked with while the entire Western world watches them made fo

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:44PM (#33665588)
    Messing with a pretty white cheerleader with Republican parents, in Texas? They got *way* too cocky there. Even Satan's powers have their limits.
    • by jgagnon (1663075)

      As with most things like this, it is not the chance of success that drives you, it's the irrepressible thoughts about what might happen if you are successful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796)

      Will it be long before Hiro and Ando show up?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

      Messing with a pretty white cheerleader with Republican parents, in Texas?

      As Texans, they'll want to shoot someone to protect their daughter. As Republicans, they want to fuck people over to cater to big business.

      This conflict will cause their heads to implode.

  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:48PM (#33665670)
    How is the RIAA supposed to win if those pesky file sharers won't stop defending themselves?!?
  • Constitutionality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lavagolemking (1352431) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:52PM (#33665744)
    What we should be considering is whether the $750-to-200,000-per-file fine is constitutional, more than whether someone knew it was copyright. Seriously, find me another crime (especially civil) that has a heavier penalty, even a punitive one.
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)
      Life in prison for every person to whom you give a gift, when that gift is a knife, and you deliver it by leaving it right where they will find it in their chest.
    • by jgagnon (1663075)

      When you commit multiple crimes and are found guilty, you serve a combined time for the crimes. There are laws in place that state a fine for EACH infraction. So if you share 50 files or 500, your fine will be different.

      It would be interesting to find out if you could be held liable for 50 illegal copies if you leave a CD and 50 blank CDR disks at a computer. In theory that isn't much different than putting a file up on a torrent. You didn't make the copies but you sure made it easy for someone else to.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Overzeetop (214511)

        Yes, but if you steal (actually STEAL) 1 candy bar or 100 candy bars, the crime is the same, and treated as a single crime of the same magnitude. You might get a fine, or a very short jail sentence (let's call it "up to" 30 days). If you stole 100 candy bars, you would still be subject to only a maximum 30 day sentence - not 100 - 30 day sentences. That would be ridiculous.

    • Re:Constitutionality (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Idiomatick (976696) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @04:13PM (#33668654)
      Downloading 24 songs -> 1.92 million dollars

      Producing wilfully misleading documents in regards to royalties owed to the natives who's land you are pumping gas from (for 25,949 violation days)
      -> 5.2 million dollars (65 songs)

      Filling falsified audits for 4 years overstating pre-tax income by more than $1 billion (really was 1.4bill).
      -> 7 million dollars (88 songs)

      Causing more than 300 oil spills (the largest being 100,000gallons into Nueces Bay, TX), illegally discharging crude oil totalling 3million gallons of crude leaking into ponds, lakes, rivers and streams across 6 states over a period of 7 years. All due to negligence and improper maintenance.
      -> 35 million dollars (437 songs)

      Seems fair to me. 229 gallons of leaked crude oil into natural environments per mp3 copied. That means that my personal music collection is as bad as dumping 1.15 million barrels of oil across the countryside. To try to imagine how much that is: It is 357 average sized US homes filled with oil.

      Also, the legal cap is a mere $150,000 per file, not 200.
  • Cheerleader? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @12:53PM (#33665750)

      How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

    • Re:Cheerleader? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by schon (31600) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:03PM (#33665920)

      It doesn't have any impact on the case, but it does have an impact on the readers.

      Think about it - this is a site filled with pasty white guys who live in their parents basement. You mention one of the parties is a cheerleader, we're all gonna click the link to see if there's a picture.

      We still won't read the article, but we'll go looking for the pic, and so the submitter will get a few more ad impressions. :)

    • by Surt (22457) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:04PM (#33665930) Homepage Journal

        How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

      It makes the 'I didn't know it was illegal' defense she is using more plausible.

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

      How much does a Cheerleader earn per year, typically?

      And are Cheerleaders usually found profiting from copyright infringement as a profession?

      Sure they could have said 'student', but this label also identifies her gender, and puts an image in a person's head.

  • Damages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by koterica (981373) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:02PM (#33665908) Journal
    If the 'innocent infringer' defense doesn't fly, how about awarding full damages? $0.99 cents per song seems reasonable. If she left bittorent running till the share ratio hit 2.0, maybe she should even pay &1.98 per song. Thats like 70 bucks, or three albums. The price is steep, but she did "steal" the songs. The RIAA deserves to be fairly compensated for their losses.
    • She should just pay her $.99. Whoever downloaded from her should pay his own share.
    • Re:Damages? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:18PM (#33666168) Homepage

      That's not fair though. The whole point of punitive damages is to punish the infringer, not just force them to buy it. If all you pay for is the price of the song, then why ever buy anything? Just pirate it - the worst that happens is you have to pay for it. Because there was willful intent here, I think the rule of treble damages applies.

      So that is $2.97 per song.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khchung (462899)

        That's not fair though. The whole point of punitive damages is to punish the infringer, not just force them to buy it

        If that's real reason for punitive damages, explain why the money does NOT goes to the government just like any other fines. The winning side's Legal fees should be awarded separately.

        Since the punitive damage money goes to the other side, it seems to me the reason for punitive damages is just to encourage more lawsuits.

  • Corporate lap dogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez (54068) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:06PM (#33665960) Journal

    The "conservative" SCOTUS will probably rule in favor of the record industry, tightening the strangle hold corporations have on the US. They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government (in the form of police and secret police powers) and corporations for at least 20 years now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by chemicaldave (1776600)
      Why wouldn't they? The law is unquestionably on the RIAA's side. The big issue isn't a matter of "did these people break the law" but rather, "should the copyright act apply to filesharing" and "are these fines are inflated and have no context to casual filesharers?".
    • by NevarMore (248971) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:27PM (#33666324) Homepage Journal

      They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government

      Except for those pro-gun 2nd Amendment rulings in Heller and McDonald.

      The "conservative" SCOTUS

      Pssst, your editorial bias is showing!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Trepidity (597)

        The standard generalization is that conservatives like the 2nd Amendment, the restrictions-on-eminent-domain part of the 5th amendment, and sometimes the 1st; while liberals like the 4th amendment, the criminal-defendant-rights part of the 5th amendment, the 6th, 7th, and 8th, and sometimes the 1st.

  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:12PM (#33666072) Journal

    ...and they're accusing the DEFENDANT of being vexatious? That's not usually the way it works.

    I rather suspect, though, that the US Supreme Court will smack down the Fifth Circuit for ignoring the law's requirement of a minimum of $750/infringement, thereby protecting the RIAA from activist judges and hordes of underaged cheerleaders. Copyright uber alles, after all.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:26PM (#33666286) Homepage

    I really had to read this for myself:

    US Copyright Law: Chapter 5. Statutory damages [copyright.gov]

    (1) Except as provided by clause (2) of this subsection, the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just. For the purposes of this subsection, all the parts of a compilation or derivative work constitute one work.

    (2) In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200. The court shall remit statutory damages in any case where an infringer believed and had reasonable grounds for believing that his or her use of the copyrighted work was a fair use under section 107, if the infringer was: (i) an employee or agent of a nonprofit educational institution, library, or archives acting within the scope of his or her employment who, or such institution, library, or archives itself, which infringed by reproducing the work in copies or phonorecords; or (ii) a public broadcasting entity which or a person who, as a regular part of the nonprofit activities of a public broadcasting entity (as defined in subsection (g) of section 118) infringed by performing a published nondramatic literary work or by reproducing a transmission program embodying a performance of such a work.

    (Watch me get sued for copying legal text verbatim)

    Some thoughts:
    - This is all at the discretion of the judge.
    - The $200 seems to apply per copyright infringement charge. But what is that unit really? Naturally, the RIAA would say "per song" but even $200 per album seems extreme. Per song? What if a 30-second clip is enough to be a copyright infringement. Can the RIAA claim that a 2 minute song is 4 30-second infringements so that is $200 * 4 = $800? Or... is a 35 second song really 5 overlapping infringements of 30-second clips so that's $200 * 5 = $1000. I don't think this is what the authors of the law intended. Could you even buy individual tracks when this law was written?

  • by davev2.0 (1873518) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @01:30PM (#33666358)

    The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400 - or $200 per song. That's an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright act.

    The judge found her an innocent infringer, which means the judge believes she didn't understand that what she was doing was illegal. That kicks in USC 17 504.C.2 which states:

    In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.

    The judge gave her the miminum fine for what he determined to be the truth of the case. The $750 is the minimum award for a finding of willful infringement and so his award is not well below anything.

  • by zuki (845560) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @03:17PM (#33667856) Journal
    It would be interesting to revisit this thread and all of its comments in 10 years' time to compare notes on what really happened.

    By then it may feel so anachronistic and quaintly out of place that the reader might well wonder why no lawmaking body could foresee the consequences of infinite copying, the end of artificial scarcity coming, and all of the consequences thereof.
    No matter what SCOTUS ends up with as an opinion, the realities on the ground will be so different by then that one can wonder how much this really matters at all. (sorry for the cheerleader)

    Maybe the real deal will be something along the lines of what Charles Stross wrote in his most excellent book Accelerando [jus.uio.no] ?
    The carcasses of the record business purchased by Russian organized crime and turned into a for-profit extortion racket, exacting demands for payment on things that were created by people who died fifty years ago...

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