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Music The Courts

8th Circuit Upholds $220,000 Verdict In Jammie Thomas Case 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-expensive-than-itunes dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has upheld the initial jury verdict in the case against Jammie Thomas, Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas-Rasset. This case was the first jury trial for a file-sharing suit brought by the major record labels, and focused on copyright infringement for 24 songs. The Court of Appeals has ruled that the award of $220,000, or $9250 per song, was not an unconstitutional violation of Due Process. The Court, in its 18-page decision (PDF), declined to reach the 'making available' issue, for procedural reasons."
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8th Circuit Upholds $220,000 Verdict In Jammie Thomas Case

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  • Good Lord (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Sheldon Cooper (2726841) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:54PM (#41302653)
    Having people who know nothing about technology make case law about technology is like having a Capuchin monkey fix the brakes on your car: cute and funny at first, but ultimately a bad idea that is also highly dangerous.
    • Re:Good Lord (Score:5, Insightful)

      by man_of_mr_e (217855) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:30PM (#41303191)

      This isn't a case of lack of knowledge of the technology. It's a case of the law being absurd, and the judges hands being tied. It's absurd that sharing a couple dozen songs can carry a greater liability than murdering someone (I'm talking civil law here).

      The punishment certainly does not fit the crime, but that law allows these kinds of damages.

      If you don't like it, lobby your lawmakers.

      • Re:Good Lord (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:36PM (#41303287)

        Is the judge allowed to tell the jury about jury nullification? If he is, then his/her hands are never tied.

        • Re:Good Lord (Score:5, Informative)

          by Joe Snipe (224958) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:46PM (#41303465) Homepage Journal

          No they are not allowed to tell the jury about jury nullification. technically no one is allowed to tell the jury about jury nullification, and doing do would be precedent for a mistrial.

        • Re:Good Lord (Score:5, Interesting)

          by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:52PM (#41303577) Homepage Journal

          Is the judge allowed to tell the jury about jury nullification? If he is, then his/her hands are never tied.

          I doubt that would have had any effect in this case. Three different juries: The first found that Thomas-Rasset willfully infringed and awarded $222K; the second was given instructions that were slightly more favorable to her, and found she infringed and awarded $1.9M; the third was only asked to reconsider the very high award of the second and awarded $1.5M.

          In all three cases, if the juries had had any inclination to favor Thomas-Rasset they could at the very least have awarded the statutory minimum of $750 per song, or $18,000, but they awarded 12, 105 and 83 times that minimum. What makes you think they'd have voted to nullify?

        • Is the judge allowed to tell the jury about jury nullification? If he is, then his/her hands are never tied.

          Historically, jury nullification freed the Klansman and hanged the black man.

          It freed the good old boys and not the outsiders. Three guesses as to whether the geek will be found on the side of the angels. Three juries cheerfully took turns hammering Jamie Thomas and her pro bono attorneys into the marble flooring.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Why, in every article about law, does some idiot have to say something to the effect of 'you get away with less for murdering someone'? It is flatly untrue.

        Case in point - the judgment in this case was less than $10K/song (it is not the court nor law's fault that she did it 24 times). OJ Simpson was ordered to pay $33M for the wrongful death of Ron Goldman. So it seems like the 'liability' for murder is approx 33000 times greater than the liability for copyright infringement.

        • by mr1911 (1942298)

          Why, in every article about law, does some idiot have to say something to the effect of 'you get away with less for murdering someone'? It is flatly untrue.

          Except for the fact that your example proves the point you intended to contradict.

          OJ Simpson got away with murdering Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson in that he was not sentenced to prison, or what would have been more correct, to death.

          The fact that OJ Simpson was ordered to pay a fine for wrongful death means that he did, indeed, get away with murder.

          • Re:Good Lord (Score:4, Informative)

            by bws111 (1216812) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:04PM (#41303777)

            If you want to gloss over the minor fact that he was not convicted of murder, then you have a point. His not being convicted had absolutely nothing to do with murder carrying less punishment than copyright infringement.

            The wrongful death suit was a civil case, like this one. And the GP carefully pointed out that his was talking about civil law. And in these cases, in civil court, murder carried a 33000 times greater liability than copyright infringement.

        • by N0Man74 (1620447)

          Sure. The OJ Simpson trials were of a completely ordinary sort, completely representative of ordinary American trials.

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            If you are going to make a comparison between copyright and murder civil trials (which the GP, not I, did) then you are going to get comparisons between those cases. There are no ordinary civil murder trials.

            • by N0Man74 (1620447)

              If you are going to make a comparison between copyright and murder civil trials (which the GP, not I, did) then you are going to get comparisons between those cases. There are no ordinary civil murder trials.

              It's a dumb comparison. The amount of the judgement against OJ in the wrongful death suit was due to his fame and status, and that 33 Million amount that was stated is far above the usual amount. Additionally, the cases were high profile circuses. I am not going to argue whether or not there exists "ordinary civil murder trials", but the OJ trial is certainly among those that stray far outside the norms.

              On the other hand, Thompson is not rich, famous, a celbrity, and (unfortunately) someone of little int

        • The OJ trial was not typical of wrongful death trials. More often, someone gets a 50k award or less.

          • by bws111 (1216812)

            And those are almost never murder cases. They are accidents, negligence, etc. Where are the $50K murder cases?

      • by cpghost (719344)

        If you don't like it, lobby your lawmakers.

        Sure, go ahead... if you have deeper pockets than the MAFIAA. If you don't, lobbying against the excesses of Copyright Law could put you on a terrorist list or something like that. At least that's my impression of the US political system: they consider the so called "intellectual property" as the new Oil of the 21st century. Their oil, to monetize to the max and beyond. And as in every Oil war so far, people get killed, in real life or symbolically/figuratively.

      • If you don't like it, lobby your lawmakers.

        And who will "your" lawmakers listen to, you or these guys?
        Lobbyists [opensecrets.org]
        Interest groups [opensecrets.org]
        PACs [opensecrets.org]

      • Re:Good Lord (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hesaigo999ca (786966) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:39PM (#41305113) Homepage Journal

        >If you don't like it, lobby your lawmakers.
        hahahahahahahahaha.......hahahahahahahahahaha.........hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha....

    • by tomhath (637240)
      One could make the same comment about people unfamiliar with copyright law deciding on their own what should be legal.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @01:57PM (#41302691)

    We will continue to share and the labels will learn their place.

    • by PoliTech (998983) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:09PM (#41303857) Homepage Journal
      Napster, limewire, bittorrent, ... the next method will once again catch the lawyers and copyright police by surprise and completely off their guard. Then when the new method (whatever it may be) becomes mainstream enough that the lawyers and copyright trolls finally figure it out, the media moguls will pursue trial and conviction of another sacrificial lamb to attempt to staunch the bleeding, and once again it will be much too little and much too late.

      Too bad for the sacrificial lamb, but as has been said before, if we want the laws changed, we need to work to change them. If we want the media companies to change we need to buy enough stock in the media corporations to exert some influence with regards to marketing, and IP.

      Most downloaders however won't bother to expend any time or energy to change the law, or vote on stocks. They'll simply move on to the next media sharing methodology and happily continue on, (as they always have) while the "Mainstream" eventually catches up.

      So the story continues ... Until the media moguls finally figure out that they are stepping over dollars to pick up dimes, there will be one after another file sharing methods, and one after another sacrificial lambs.

  • Somewhat seriously. The aristocrats of the Capitalistic system are totally messing with us.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:03PM (#41302797)
    From the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]:

    1st civil jury trial Statutory damages of $222,000 ($9,250/song).
    2nd civil jury trial Statutory damages of $1,920,000 ($80,000/song).
    Remittitur Statutory damages reduced to $54,000 ($2,250/song).
    3rd civil jury trial Statutory damages of $1,500,000 ($62,500/song).
    Damages reduced Statutory damages reduced to $54,000 ($2,250/song).

    Seriously, statutory damages are a joke. The number is completely arbitrary and jumping around, seemingly randomly, from $54k to almost $2m. Isn't this a pretty good sign that things are FUBAR, and "statutory damages" is devoid of all meaning? The $150,000 statutory damages maximum (per infringement) was written into law with a very different context in mind than it's being applied to (industrial scale for-profit copyright infringement). These statutory damages seriously are completely defunct, yet copyright holders are exploiting them to no end. *We* as a society have provided *them* copyright to promote the *useful* arts and sciences. I think it's becoming very clear the art they are producing is no longer useful, but a determent to society. Perhaps *we* as a society should take those rights away, or at the very least severely curb them to avoid this utter nonsense.
    • Ask for the Universe and you will get the World. It's how it works. It's the classic high-low-middle negotiation ploy.

    • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:17PM (#41302991)
      Sorry, forgot the best part... the fact that with the award at $222,000 they're exactly where they were 3 trials and 5 years ago: at an amount which will most likely *never* be paid in full. How many countless wasted hours or lawyers, judges, juries, court time and space have been spent on this, what amounts to realistically probably no more than $24 actual real damages to the record labels (song downloads).

      Again, sorry to reply to myself but this nonsense really gets me riled up, especially if you have a look at what the adult film industry is doing with copyright these days. If you're not aware, there's a massive nation-wide campaign going on where over 300,000 people have been sued so far in a grand perversion of technology and the justice system in efforts to extort multi-thousand dollar settlements. And this movement has its roots squarely in RIAA litigation tactics. See: http://fightcopyrighttrolls.com/ [fightcopyrighttrolls.com]
      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        This isn't about actual damages which would be higher than $24. (30 songs times 1000 people downloaded them, and 100 people who would have bought the song if it were not free == $3000 lost sales.) This is about setting an example to scare teenagers from downloading. And it's working.

        • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:40PM (#41303351) Journal

          Part of this, which often escapes /. users is that the law isn't justified by just actual losses, but also also includes punitive recourse as well.

          I'm of the opinion that Punitive damages should be awarded, but those should go to the state, not to the victim. I'm all for actual damages, and perhaps 10% (or Treble damages or some other number) of the Punitive damages going to the victim, but most of the punitive damages should be going to the state, into a victims compensation or something like that. This would prevent the idea of "get rich quick, just sue" mentality that is clogging up the courts now. Courts have become Greed Machines.

          • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:04PM (#41303791)
            Punitive damages are fine and good, but these are not punitive damages; they are statutory. Punitive damages are designed to deter a law breaker whereas the statutory damages written into copyright law are designed to compensate the copyright holder as a proxy for actual damages in the case where they are unable to accurately prove actual damages. So, at face value this has fuckall to do with punitive damages. However the copyright holders are trying to use statutory damages (which 100% go to them) for a punitive purpose because the amounts, being so obscenely high, allow them to.
          • by skine (1524819)

            The other part that is generally missed, and has been a few times already in here, is that this has nothing to do with downloading music. In fact, it may even be legal to download music.

            The issue is that the files are uploaded. This means that the person's computer is making and distributing copies of the songs, which is an obvious violation of copyright.

            So, while the value of what was downloaded is probably about $30, the value of a license legally allowing you to copy and distribute copyrighted material i

            • Actually it's both downloading and uploading. From the original complaint:

              Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Defendant... use[d] an online media distribution system to download the Copyrighted Recordings, to distribute the Copyrighted Recordings to the public, and/or to make the Copyrighted Recordings available for distribution to others.

              The claim they bring is copyright infringement.... violating the exclusive rights of the copyright holder to perform (downloading) and distribute (uploading). Now, they cannot really prove you downloaded it, unless they're in the middle of that transaction, which brings up all sorts of unclean hands defenses (which is a sticking point in bittorrent cases). They can prove you uploaded it, if they downloaded it from you. But they also c

        • This isn't about actual damages which would be higher than $24. (30 songs times 1000 people downloaded them, and 100 people who would have bought the song if it were not free == $3000 lost sales.)

          Of course it's not about actual damages; that's why we're talking about statutory damages in the first place. The point is that the Plaintiff isn't seeking actual damages because 1) they are incalculable (incalculable not as in astronomically high, as in there is no possible way to actually calculate them) and 2) any approximation of actual damages is so incredibly low as to be an insult to everyone's time and reputation involved in the trial. Even your generous $3000 calculation spits in the face of the co

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by GIL_Dude (850471)
          Well, to be fair, they would have to settle the whole "making available" thing before they can determine if the actual damages (by law) were more than $24. Because, honestly, WHO makes the copy? The downloader does. Not the seeder. The seeder "makes available" and the legal status of that has really not been settled. It would be similar to you hanging up a pamphlet on a bulletin board near a copy machine. Yes, people may make copies. But you didn't. You made it available for them. Contrast this with the com
          • I'm going to have to slightly disagree about who makes the copy. Clearly both the uploader and downloader take part in the copy action. The uploader isn't giving free access to his computer to the downloaders; the downloaders are requesting specific subsections of the work to be downloaded. He is then reading off those bytes to the downloader who then writes those bytes down on his hard drive.

            It'd be the equivalent of me reading Harry Potter to you and you writing it out while I read it to you. We were

            • It'd be the equivalent of me reading Harry Potter to you and you writing it out while I read it to you.

              You're half way there. To complete the analogy, the person reading harry potter would have to know the other was writing it down and would have to know doing so is an act of copyright infringement. This is called contributory liability and is a form of secondary liability. The other kind is vicarious liability, which brings liability to an employer of and employee who infringes in the course of his job. This contributory liability is very difficult to prove, which is why it's not often brought as a claim ag

          • by Kjella (173770)

            It would be similar to you hanging up a pamphlet on a bulletin board near a copy machine.

            If you actually upload to another peer, you are distributing and in violation of 17106(3). The downloader is reproducing and in violation of 17106(1). The whole "making available" issue is because they can not prove any distribution actually occurred, except possibly one the copyright goons caused themselves but that doesn't count. Consider the following analogy, assume you are preparing a murder. You've procured the gun, you've tricked the victim here, everything is lined up for your trigger man to pull th

        • by sjames (1099)

          Have you ever torrented? Did you ever seed until the ratio reached 1000?

          However, even going with your figures, there is only so much overkill before things become unreasonable. Treble damages is quite popular in other areas of law, which would come to $9000). Of course, the RIAA member wouldn't have made ALL of that $3K, the download provider would have taken as much as 40%, so it's closer to $2000 times 3or 6K.

      • I'm going to have to start checking out your blog.

        I agree completely, of course.

        I think the solution is to expand fair use to include all non-commercial copying, which is what I blog about :-)
        • Not my blog, but the blog of someone who was was sued by these trolls. Eventually her case was dismissed, as the large majority are after the trolls meet their extortion quota. Of note, not a single troll suit has been tried in front of a jury on the merits. Perhaps these people target a good many actual infringers, but their dragnet tactics incur substantial collateral damage in the form of extorting completely innocent people for thousands of dollars.
    • by cpghost (719344)

      Perhaps *we* as a society should take those rights away, or at the very least severely curb them to avoid this utter nonsense.

      Absolutely! But how is that supposed to happen, considering that we as a society are already brain washed by the very news and entertainment media conglomerates that have everything to lose with saner copyright laws? Those conglomerates will NEVER permit society to change its stance on copyright, and every politician or grass roots movement that tries to emerge here will be cut off

    • Minor nit: copyright is meant to promote the progress of science; it's patents that are meant to promote the progress of the useful arts. But yes, both are utilitarian systems, and should be reformed to best serve the public interest, rather than the interests of authors and publishers.

      • Other way around. I don't think I've ever seen any invention copyrighted, or any artwork patented. Either way, standard way to show something is not protected by copyright is to first point to the constitution, which grants Congress the power to enact copyrights and patents in the following passage: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" then to show that the work in questio
        • Heh, just a few days ago someone was arguing with me that the meanings of words used in the Constitution haven't changed, but I think you are interpreting them backwards.

          The "useful arts" are supposed to be practical applications, i.e. manufacture and craftsmanship, or (using a modern term) engineering. Patents are supposed to protect those things.

          Copyright protects science because science's result (pure science) is a research paper. Once you get into an "invention" (the term you use) you are already talk

          • I see what you're saying, but under that interpretation, no art (books, music, movies, etc.) would not be copyright-able. The aforementioned are clearly not science, so they must be interpreted as useful arts, and all the aforementioned are protected by copyright, and not patents.
  • Piracy = theft? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OldSport (2677879) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:04PM (#41302807)

    Industry shills are constantly trying to convince the public that piracy = theft, but punishments like this make it seem more like piracy = murder. In my home state, anyway, "a person convicted of the offense of retail theft of merchandise having a retail value not in excess of $100.00 shall be punished by a fine of not more than $300.00 or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both." Torrent the same CD, however, and you're out $150,000 ($10,000/song, assuming 15 songs on a CD).

    Note to potential downloaders: just steal the goods you want. You'll get off a lot lighter that way.

    • Torrent the same CD, however, and you're out $150,000 ($10,000/song, assuming 15 songs on a CD).

      I agree that the theft analogy has flaws, but let's run with it for the moment: Someone who trades infringing copies over BitTorrent or other reciprocal peer-to-peer file sharing protocols is like a fence [wikipedia.org], someone who sells stolen property. If the P2P software uploaded 9,250 copies of each song to other users, then Thomas isn't paying more than retail.

      • by grumbel (592662)

        If the P2P software uploaded 9,250 copies of each song to other users, then Thomas isn't paying more than retail.

        Yes, if he did upload that much. Except there is no proof that he uploaded that much and not only that, it's also highly implausible. 9250 copies per song, 15 songs, a song say 3MB in size and we are talking about 400GB upload volume. That so much that it should be not only unlikely, but proofable impossible for the average user.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        In which case he should've been charged with that, and the plaintiff should've been required to provide some proof for that claim.

      • by ccguy (1116865)

        If the P2P software uploaded 9,250 copies of each song to other users, then Thomas isn't paying more than retail.

        You wouldn't reach a ratio of 1:9250 even seeding from a 10 Gbit/s connection on TPB torrent, seriously. And even if you did, if you wanted to buy 9250 copies of the same CD I'm sure it would be a lot cheaper than what these crooks wants to get.

    • Your argument hinges on the same misconception that most people have, where you are comparing criminal law punishment to civil law punishment. These are two completely different set of rules. Civil law can pretty much only bite your wallet, so it is in proportion the the perception of wealth. Your beef is with the lack of boundaries in civil law. The meanies are financially/socially putting these people in the gas chamber.
    • by cpghost (719344)

      Industry shills are constantly trying to convince the public that piracy = theft, but punishments like this make it seem more like piracy = murder.

      Actually, piracy IS theft, but copyright infringement isn't piracy. Piracy is what happens on the High Seas, e.g. near the coast of Somalia. The concept of copying files (instead of stealing them) should constitute piracy is flawed from the get go.

    • Note to potential downloaders: just steal the goods you want. You'll get off a lot lighter that way.

      You know, I'm embarrassed to say I never thought about it this way. I've always been against the record companies, et. al. on this topic, but it's never really occurred to me how completely right you are. In fact, there's almost zero chance, for a first offense, that you'll have to pay anything or even have any kind of punishment. I'd image you'd get some sort of suspended sentence that will be expunged if you keep your nose clean for a year.....

    • by skine (1524819)

      It's surprising after all this time that people still don't understand what this case is about.

      It's about Jammie uploading the songs and violating copyright. It's not about her downloading the songs.

      So your note to potential downloaders should be amended to something like: If you're going to download, disable uploading.

      • by OldSport (2677879)

        I understand the various issues quite well. I was looking at it more from the standpoint of your average P2P user, I guess. But even focusing solely on the issue of uploading, there are a slew of reasons why this punishment is grossly excessive.

        As for civil versus criminal: keep in mind that it's the industry that is benefiting from unchecked punishments in civil cases that is constantly trying to convince everyone that piracy is theft (a criminal case). To that I say, fine, but the punishments should b

  • Due process? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:10PM (#41302897) Journal

    Due process is guaranteed by the 5th and 14th amendments. The problem with this case is excessive fines, prohibited by the 8th amendment. Why wasn't this an issue in this appeal?

    • Re:Due process? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:16PM (#41302987)

      Did you read the ruling? they did address that:

      Thomas-Rasset urges us to consider instead the “guideposts” announced by the Supreme Court for the review of punitive damages awards under the Due Process Clause. When a party challenges an award of punitive damages, a reviewing court is directed to consider three factors in determining whether the award is excessive and unconstitutional: “(1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s misconduct; (2) the disparity between the actual or potential harm suffered by the plaintiff and the punitive damages award; and (3) the difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable cases.” State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 418 (2003); see also BMW of N. Am., Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559, 574-75 (1996).

      The Supreme Court never has held that the punitive damages guideposts are applicable in the context of statutory damages. See Zomba Enters., Inc. v. Panorama Records, Inc., 491 F.3d 574, 586-88 (6th Cir. 2007). Due process prohibits excessive punitive damages because “‘[e]lementary notions of fairness enshrined in our constitutional jurisprudence dictate that a person receive fair notice not only of the conduct that will subject him to punishment, but also of the severity of the penalty that a State may impose.’” Campbell, 538 U.S. at 417 (quoting Gore, 517 U.S. at 574). This concern about fair notice does not apply to statutory damages, because those damages are identified and constrained by the authorizing statute. The guideposts themselves, moreover, would be nonsensical if applied to statutory damages. It makes no sense to consider the disparity between “actual harm” and an award of statutory damages when statutory damages are designed precisely for instances where actual harm is difficult or impossible to calculate. See Cass Cnty. Music Co. v. C.H.L.R., Inc., 88 F.3d 635, 643 (8th Cir. 1996). Nor could a reviewing court consider the difference between an award of statutory damages and the “civil penalties authorized,” because statutory damages are the civil penalties authorized.

      Applying the Williams standard, we conclude that an award of $9,250 per each of twenty-four works is not “so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable.” 251 U.S. at 67. Congress, exercising its “wide latitude of discretion,” id. at 66, set a statutory damages range for willful copyright infringement of $750 to $150,000 per infringed work. 17 U.S.C. 504(c). The award here is toward the lower end of this broad range. As in Williams, “the interests of the public, the numberless opportunities for committing the offense, and the need for securing uniform adherence to [federal law]” support the constitutionality of the award. Id. at 67.

      • Re:Due process? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:35PM (#41303257)

        Applying the Williams standard, we conclude that an award of $9,250 per each of twenty-four works is not âoeso severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable.â

        The award of $9,250 is not really the issue. In fact, that would be an arguably reasonable punishment for the alleged infringement.

        The issue is counting each file as a separate infringement and multiplying $9,250 by 24.

        Using kazaa or whatever it was to infringe and being convicted should be a singular crime, not 24 separate crimes.

        When I ripped my 800+ disc CD collection I ended up with upwards of 9000 tracks. When I installed a filesharing app that by default pointed at my music folder I am apparently on the hook for 9000 separate crimes @ $9250 each?

        Lets see: this court apparently thinks it would be "reasonable" to fine me 83 million dollars for that.

        • by Daffy Duck (17350)

          Lets see: this court apparently thinks it would be "reasonable" to fine me 83 million dollars for that.

          Nope, the court doesn't think that, at least not according to what they wrote:

          we disagree that the validity of the lesser amount sought here depends on whether the Due Process Clause would permit the extrapolated award that she posits. The absolute amount of the award, not just the amount per violation, is relevant to whether the award is “so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to

      • Re:Due process? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:41PM (#41303381) Journal

        Where in the 8th amendment does it distinguish between "punitive damages" and "statutory damages"? It appears to me that statutory damages have been invented by the courts as a way to work around the 8th amendment. They are operating under the fiction that if they call it something else, the restrictions against excessive fines does not apply.

        Any honest person can see that this is a dishonest argument on the part of the judge. This sort of jurisprudence should simply not be tolerated.

      • Hmmm.. Interesting sidebar. If "actual harm" is impossible to calculate, is it actually harm?

    • by RichMan (8097)

      > Why wasn't this an issue in this appeal?

      Justice is only as good as the lawyer you can pay for.

    • Re:Due process? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:22PM (#41303091)

      Because in the case and decision they refer to an earlier case which provides precedence for this decision, St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co. v. Williams. In Williams, the excessive fines can't be disproportionate to the actual amount of PRIVATE loss, but because the $222,000 is instead a punitive damage award, it can be disproportionate. It's designed to address the PUBLIC wrong and to act as a deterrent, not the private loss itself.

      At the end of the day, Thomas-Rasset had a million outs in this. She was contacted by MediaSentry but she blew them off. She was contacted by the RIAA, at which time SHE THREW AWAY HER HARD DRIVE TO COVER HER TRACKS (HA!) and went to meet with the RIAA, who undoubtedly offered her the same $5000 (+/-) out they always offered, and she blew them off too and even lied about her use of Kazaa and her online handle...so they sued the shit out of her for WILLFUL copyright infringement.

      This wasn't a "oops, I didn't know I was stealing...sorry!" case...this was a "you can't prove s**t, BRING IT" case...and so they brought it. Case closed.

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Because a civil judgment is not a fine.

    • by Wovel (964431)

      It is not a fine.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        "If we call it something else, the constitution doesn't apply". Is that really the only argument you have?

  • Analogy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:16PM (#41302981)

    I've always thought of suing file sharers akin to attacking a swarm of bees with a hand pistol. It won't do a thing to stop the bees, but your bullet *might* hit one of those bees and absolutely obliterare them. Looks like Jammie was the unlucky bee.

  • The major labels' profit model based around sales of shiny circular pieces of plastic is no longer valid because customers stopped patronizing them years ago out of disgust over labels suing their customers and exploiting musicians out of royalties. So their new profit model is based around litigation against customers. Looked how well that worked during the dinosaur age.
  • So much for the idea that the rich don't need government or benefit from the taxes they pay. Otherwise the RIAA could never afford a global goon squad this effective. It will take decades to ring hundreds of thousands from this kid. He might never pay it off.
    • by cpghost (719344)
      Her paying absurdly high fines wasn't the point from the very beginning. It was about making an example of her to intimidate others. By throwing her to the wolves, the MAFIAA effectively says: "don't mess with us, or we'll break your kneecaps and you'll never recover." These statutory damages are legal bullying at its best, brought to you by your elected representatives.
  • My take (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:49PM (#41303517)
    I've read in the past about her case and this is what I remember being her main problems.
    1) She had bottom of the barrel lawyers in all of her trials. If I remember correctly at one of the later trials she was actually represented by law school students who prior to the trial basically bragged that this case was going to be "easy" to win. Practicing law for real may just be a little tougher than it seems in class, boys.
    2) She has been perceived extremely negatively by juries, which has definitely led to the size of the judgements against her.
    3) She's been her own worst enemy when testifying, but that relates to #1 in large part. She lacks a credible excuse for her behavior and seemed to jurors to be a liar and trying to cover up what she did. That has worked heavily against her in reaching a verdict.
    4) She has consistently displayed an outsized ego and an erroneous belief that she can beat the charges by going to court when in fact she has probably had the weakest case of anyone to ever challenge the RIAA. I would call her delusional.

    In summary, she's got a terrible case and she's tried to win it on the cheap and the outcomes are predictable.
    • Re:My take (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cpghost (719344) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:07PM (#41303829) Homepage
      So what you're implying is that she has only herself to blame that the "legal" system is biased against the poor and common people, and in favor of the rich and corporations? Should she have taken the abuse of the MAFIAA bully without putting up a fight, or at least trying to defend herself -- no matter how inept and poor her strategy? If that's the case, why bother with laws anymore? Let the powerful reign unhindered and the common people bow and accept their fate and absorb the abuse that comes their way?
  • In the years this crazy case has dragged on, we've seen awards of $222,000, $54,000, $1,920,000, $1,500,000, and a settlement offer. We don't know what the offer was, but may have been a few hundred or a few thousand. The $54000 would have been lower if the law had allowed it. Obviously, they're having a very difficult time deciding just what the damages should be. When it is so difficult to set an appropriate damage amount, it seems to me that calls for an examination of the basic premise of the suit a

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:41PM (#41305135) Journal

    As someone already commented on here earlier, "We'll keep sharing, and the labels will learn their place." This is quite simply a statement of reality, because the record labels are in the business of making money. It just so happens they do so by locking musicians into contractual deals where they promise to "promote" their music in return for a cut of the profits made selling people rights to obtain copies of the artists' recordings to listen to per the licensing/usage terms granted.

    They can scream about it being illegal and punishable by law all the want, but it will never change the technological realities of things. These days, musicians no longer need the record labels as much as the record labels need them. The same technology that allows end-users to easily duplicate and redistribute the content on their own lets musicians record and redistribute (and market!) their content too, without help of a big company.

    Following the money leads to a steady stream of revenue bleeding away from the record labels. Their best move to prove their worth these days lies in throwing down lawsuit after lawsuit to convince artists they're still "adding value" by forcing people to "pay up" when they're caught duplicating their artists' works without getting permission first.

    But as we should all know by now? Those who don't innovate litigate. It's a sure sign of an industry in decline.

  • by Tolkien (664315) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @07:51PM (#41307141) Journal
    Banks get fined in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars (if at all) for robbing billions from entire countries, but what happens to this woman is somehow constitutional.

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