Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Piracy The Almighty Buck The Internet Entertainment News Your Rights Online

Jammie Thomas Hit With $1.5 Million Verdict 764

Posted by timothy
from the tickling-the-dragon's-tail dept.
suraj.sun writes with this excerpt from CNET: "Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota woman who has been fighting the recording industry over 24 songs she illegally downloaded and shared online four years ago, has lost another round in court as a jury in Minneapolis decided today that she was liable for $1.5 million in copyright infringement damages to Capitol Records, for songs she illegally shared in April 2006. ... The trial is the third for Thomas-Rasset, after one jury found her liable for copyright infringement in 2007 and ordered her to pay $222,000, the judge in the case later ruled that he erred in instructing the jury and called for a retrial. In the second trial, which took place in 2009, a jury found Thomas-Rasset liable for $1.92 million. Thomas-Rasset subsequently asked the federal court for a new trial or a reduction in the amount of damages in July 2009. But earlier this year, the judge found that amount to be 'monstrous and shocking' and reduced the amount to $54,000."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Jammie Thomas Hit With $1.5 Million Verdict

Comments Filter:
  • Re:Confused? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @01:48PM (#34126794)

    No, that was the amount after the amount of damages was reduced after the second trial. This is the result of the third trial.

  • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @01:55PM (#34126932) Journal
    There's a common denominator in the variability here... jury vs judge decision.
  • Re:Confused? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moryath (553296) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:05PM (#34127108)

    It actually goes on.

    But earlier this year, the judge found that amount to be "monstrous and shocking" and reduced the amount to $54,000. Following that, the RIAA informed Thomas-Rasset that it would accept $25,000--less than half of the court-reduced award--if she agreed to ask the judge to "vacate" his decision, which means removing his decision from the record. Thomas-Rasset rejected that offer almost immediately.

    The judge's decision stood as a great precedent.

    Therefore, the scumwad MafiAA lawyers tried to extort Thomas to have the judge's decision vacated - essentially, make it invalid so that nobody else the MafiAA extortion racket [arstechnica.com] targets can hold up the judge's decision as precedent against them.

    Also:
    Updated at 8:20 p.m. PT with comment from Thomas-Rasset attorney, and at 9:10 p.m. to emphasize the illegal sharing aspect of the copyright complaint.

    Why is it Cnet doesn't say who told them to do that? Some subhuman MafiAA goon lawyer wants to remain anonymous. How typical of them.

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:07PM (#34127150)

    She likely is best off just letting the chips fall where they may, declaring bankruptcy, and walking away from it.

    Declaring bankruptcy doesn't void such damage awards.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:14PM (#34127260) Journal

    And that's if they even bother keeping track of royalties. Robert Fripp has been fighting for years to even get a proper accounting for the sales of King Crimson and his other records from UMG after it swallowed his old record company.

    Record companies are some of the biggest crooks in the business. In the 40s and 50s they took advantage of a lot of artists, paying them peanuts. Even with really big artists like the Beatles they played dirty pool. They tried to screw John Lennon around by paying him Beatles-era royalty rates for his solo stuff despite the fact that he had negotiated higher rates after he left the Beatles. For some time EMI/Capitol was withholding royalties from the Beatles, and it took a court action to finally force open their claws. Then there's the breaches of contracts like EMI did against Pink Floyd over selling songs on online services, despite the fact that the contracts very explicitly stated that the albums were to be sold as a single unit.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:2, Informative)

    by oik (790336) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:17PM (#34127316)
    Oblig: http://xkcd.com/612/ [xkcd.com]
  • by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:23PM (#34127422)

    Filing chapter 7 will discharge all debts except student loans, back Federal taxes, child support, restitution (due to *criminal* not civil acts), homeowner's fees, debts obtained via fraud.

    Source: Federal bankruptcy code, 11 U. S. C. 523.

    If this were a criminal case, and she owned the millions, yes; she would be stuck with the debt for life. This is civil.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:5, Informative)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:35PM (#34127674) Journal

    P.S.

    The Canadian version of RIAA (CRIA) owes *billions* to various singers for music that was used in greatest hits CDs, or TV ads, but never compensated. You see stealing is a-okay if you are the Masters. But not for us Serfs or Artists... we just get screwed.

  • by mlts (1038732) * on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:36PM (#34127686)

    Unless a judge rendered willful and malicious injury in a verdict, this isn't relevant.

    It would be relevant if the plaintiff took songs from an artist, burned them on a CD, and sold them for cheap in front of a music store, or if someone copied a commercial program, sold copies of it in front of Fry's and it was proven they were doing that just to cause harm intentionally to the developer.

    This has never been proven in any of the trials. So, yes, she can declare bankruptcy.

  • by sootman (158191) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:36PM (#34127690) Homepage Journal

    ... you would have to get 3 DUIs per week for a YEAR to reach 1.5 million dollars. Clearly one person sharing music online is as big a danger to society as 150 drunks on the road.

    Seriously, this is so out of whack. There is a reason punitive damages exist but this is like executing people for speeding. If Jamie earns--excuse me, NETS--$50k per year, this would take 30 years to pay off.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rary (566291) * on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:47PM (#34127900)

    And yet if you walked into a store and stole those 24 songs off the shelf you could probably get away with a warning, maybe with some community service.

    I'm not agreeing with any of the damage amounts that have been awarded, but just to be clear, she's not being charged with stealing 24 songs, she's being charged with distributing 24 songs.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:51PM (#34127940)

    Downloading and distributing music is illegal

    So is parking your car in the wrong place.

    We all know why the amount is so high

    Yes, we do: modern copyright law was written for the benefit of businesses like the RIAA's members, rather than for the benefit of society.

    If examples are made of them, they will eventually slow down.

    Thus explaining why so many people use illegal drugs, despite nearly a century of prohibition and "making examples of" people who break those laws.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @02:52PM (#34127954) Journal

    There was never supposed to be a major nasty punishment in law for noncommercial activity. Copyright laws weren't written to assault someone who photocopies a chapter of a book to study from, or even the whole book. They were written to go after the guy who set up a printing press in a warehouse, or an LP-pressing machine, or a CD-burning machine, started burning bootleg copies and then selling them on the street corner or somewhere else for profit while undercutting the copyright owner.

    Actually, they were written to go after anybody that violated them, and whack them with draconian penalties to make up for the low probability of whacking any particular mole.

    The classic precedent is a church choir director who bought sheet music for a song that was scored for voices far squeakier than his choir, transposed it down to make it singable by ordinary people, ran off a few copies for his choir, and sent the modification back to the publisher, gratis, to be used in future editions if the publisher chose to do so. He got whacked for the statutory penalty big bucks (which were worth a lot more in those days) for each of the copies of the derived work he made.

    As to "the guy who sets up ... in a warehouse ... a CD-burning machine ... started burning bootleg copies and then selling them ... for profit while undercutting the copyright owner", it also applies to the guy who does the same except he gives them away. THAT's what she's charged with. The file-sharing software made them available for some potentially large number of downloads by others.

    I don't like it either. But let's not misconstrue the law or the situation. It confuses the issue.

  • Re:Confused? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sed quid in infernos (1167989) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:12PM (#34128186)

    Maybe the right question is, even if the RIAA thought "we can win a higher award again if we get a new trial", and even if Thompson thought "maybe this time I'll win or at least get a lower award"... why didn't the court just say "screw you both, this was the ruling, we're moving on down the docket"?

    Because the court had no power to do so. The mechanism by which the court reduced damage is called "remittitur." The plaintiff who has his award reduced in this manner has a choice: accept the reduced award or have a new trial.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:13PM (#34128202)
  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:2, Informative)

    by nzwasp (1826456) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:44PM (#34128586)

    P.S.

    The Canadian version of RIAA (CRIA) owes *billions* to various singers for music that was used in greatest hits CDs, or TV ads, but never compensated. You see stealing is a-okay if you are the Masters. But not for us Serfs or Artists... we just get screwed.

    Canadians also pay every time they buy a blank CD or DVD, I guess because the govt assumes you are going to put something illegal on that disc.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Intron (870560) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:54PM (#34128716)

    So, 24 songs are worth $222,000... no, actually it's $1,920,000... wait, I mean $54,000... did I say that? I meant $1,500,000...

    Who the hell decides these amounts? The guy who wrote the Windows file copy dialog?

    Just look up "restitution" in google news for recent settlements:

    $53,824 for stabbing someone in Pittsburgh.
    $150,000 for selling 15 skid steer loaders (whatever they are, they sound big).
    $1.5M for giving away 24 songs

    See? The law makes perfect sense.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @03:59PM (#34128774)

    In fact every copyright act I've read is explicitly not merely a regulation on business, as they specifically assign liability for infringement even if it isn't commercial in nature.

    You are ignorant then. It was only in 1997 that non-commercial infringement became a criminal offense. [wikimedia.org]

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:05PM (#34128850)

    Actually, they were written to go after anybody that violated them, and whack them with draconian penalties to make up for the low probability of whacking any particular mole.

    That's how they are written now. But today's laws are the result of massive lobbying and don't reflect the original design.
    As I've pointed out else where in this thread, it was only in 1997 with the passage of the No-Electronic Theft Act that non-commercial infringement (i.e. trading copies for other copies) was made a criminal offense.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:4, Informative)

    by jackbird (721605) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:17PM (#34129042)

    $150,000 for selling 15 skid steer loaders (whatever they are, they sound big).

    They are. [google.com] And clearly you don't know any 3-year old boys.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:23PM (#34129104) Homepage Journal

    I'm seeing stories in the Washington Post, ABC News, the BBC, CNET, Wired and other sites. Which means yes she has had television and newspaper coverage, as well as coverage in trade journals.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:34PM (#34129276) Journal

    In Fripp's case, they spent much of the time forcing him to deal with low-level functionaries who had no power to make decisions. The whole thing was clearly a stalling tactic, to make it so time-consuming and potentially expensive that the artist basically gave up. It's one thing to be Pink Floyd or The Beatles and be able to command your own fleet of lawyers, but when you're a relatively small fry like Fripp, who has pretty limited resources, I suspect the tactic can often be very sensible. In Fripp's case, at least what I gather from his blog, he finally threw down the gauntlet and decided that he wasn't going to give up, and I think UMG is finally beginning to crack on it.

    The ultimate problem here is that so much attention has been paid to the recording industry's concerns that everyone with any influence is bought into the idea that they represent the music industry as a whole. While obviously not every artist has had a rough time of it, particularly those like Led Zeppelin who had a damned savvy manager who they were paying handsomely enough that he didn't try to screw them over in his own turn, there are plenty of even A list musicians who have discovered that they've been systematically raped by the record companies, through questionable accounting practices which are always the preferred method when your embezzling money. "Golly, your honor, our accountants suck so bad we really don't know what we owe him, but we're pretty sure it's only a fraction of what he claims." That generally seems to be the argument once these things reach court.

  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Thursday November 04, 2010 @04:41PM (#34129404) Journal

    There is relevant case law that has put willful copyright infringement under this exemption

    That's the second time you've mentioned this, do you have a citation to back it up? I'm really curious, because I asked my bankruptcy attorney about this case specifically and she indicated that it would more likely than not be ruled to be a dischargable debt.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by BoberFett (127537) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @05:05PM (#34129742)

    I'm pretty sure a $1.5M fine to the average American IS a life sentence.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @05:07PM (#34129776)

    Actually, no, it isn't.

    See, the entire reason we as a society have a legal system is so that we don't have to resort to violence to settle our differences when there's a disagreement. Basically, instead of just going around and killing people in anger or revenge or whatever, or having a duel to the death, when we feel we've been wronged, we take it up with the court system, and let them decide who's right and who's wrong, and who should compensate who and how much.

    In the old, old days, this stuff was decided by the local King (like the famous King Solomon), but later court systems and judges were invented for this purpose.

    The goal is to have a stable, non-violent society, because gangs running around killing each other in feuds isn't exactly productive. Instead of an advanced country like Sweden where people live happy, productive lives, you get a society like Mexico, where everyone's afraid to go out at night, people are randomly slaughtered by drug cartels, and the economy is dead.

    However, if the legal system has become utterly corrupt, and you can't get justice with it, and instead it's being used for oppression, resorting to violence is the natural alternative, since the only other alternative is just sit there and take it. You can also try to talk to people and cause the people to force change to the legal system, but obviously that's much slower, and may or may not work, depending on how many of the people you can get to agree with you and force a change in the government.

  • Re:Seriously? (Score:3, Informative)

    by CyprusBlue113 (1294000) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @05:30PM (#34130042)

    One minor correction: it was the Plaintiff, not the Defendant, that chose not to accept the $54K verdict.

  • by geniice (1336589) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:17PM (#34130566)

    The case was civil law not criminal. The criminal areas of copyright law are in any case almost never used so it's the civil stuff (which applies to all persons natural or otherwise) that matters

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:3, Informative)

    by znerk (1162519) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @06:58PM (#34130944)

    I'm not doubting your story, and it fits pretty well with their overall behaviour, but for interest sake, do you have a citation for that?

    Here ya go:

    Members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, including the Big Four (Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada, and Universal Music Canada), face the prospect of damages ranging from $50 million up to $6 billion due to their use of artists' music without permission. [arstechnica.com]

    That line is in the first paragraph of the ars technica article that explains the whole thing.

  • Re:No, Wait... (Score:2, Informative)

    by PsyciatricHelp (951182) on Thursday November 04, 2010 @07:01PM (#34130978)
    So How much did the RIAA pay the Jury?
  • Hi Ray - any chance of explaining why there is another trial here? It isn't clear from the article.

    trial -> invalidated
    trial 2 (effectively the first trial)
    trial 2 appeal (it's an appeal)
    trial 3 (why, how?)

    thanks!

    The 1st trial had to be done over because the Judge had been misled by the RIAA as to the applicable law on what it takes to violate the distribution right. The Judge later did some reading, realized his mistake in believing the RIAA lawyers, called a foul on himself, and scheduled Trial #2.

    Although he had made similar mistakes in Trial #2, he didn't call a foul on himself there. The jury returned another huge verdict. There he was looking at the verdict from the damages standpoint only. He declined to reach the constitutional issue [in my view erroneously] and decided it on "remittitur" grounds [a general 'common law' remedy]. He granted "remittitur" and reduced the verdict to $54,000, but this was provisional only -- the RIAA was given an option to either accept the award, or have a new trial. The RIAA opted for a 3rd trial instead.

    The judge set it down for a 3rd trial -- on the damages issue only. I don't know why the judge thought it appropriate to have a 3rd trial. I think he was wrong.

  • The RIAA proved to the satisfaction of the jury that Ms. Thomas-Rasset had downloaded 24 mp3 song files.

    There was NO evidence of her being a "distributor" which would have required
    -proof of dissemination of copies
    -proof that the dissemination was to the public at large, AND
    -proof of a sale, another transfer of ownership, a rental, a lease, or a lending.

    There was no proof of any of the above.

    So all there was was 24 downloads.

    Wholesale price [70 cents] minus saved expenses [~ 35 cents] = 35 cents lost profit from a lost sale.
    35 cents x 15% [the ratio of lost sales to unauthorized downloads according to music industry statistical companies] = 5 cents.
    5 cents x 24 files = $1.20.

    The statutory damages should not have exceeded $100 in all.
  • by TheoMurpse (729043) on Friday November 05, 2010 @10:05AM (#34135410) Homepage

    Yeah, there are some [google.com] Article I bankruptcy courts that have held that. But they do not create binding precedent anywhere. And the circuit courts (which do create binding precedent) have overruled them!

    9th Cir. [google.com] overrules. Perhaps reread that case to understand what "willful" in the context of dischargeability is. It is not the same as willfulness when discussing statutory damages in a copyright infringement action.

    And that's not even getting into the issue of whether she maliciously infringed the copyright! Since, according to certain courts (like the Ninth Circuit in the aforementioned opinion), willfulness and maliciousness are separate prongs of the dischargeability analysis.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.

Working...