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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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  • 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.

  • 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]
  • 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.

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

    by Desler (1608317) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:26PM (#41303151)

    Except this wasn't a punitive damages award. It was statutory damages.

  • Re:yikes! (Score:3, Informative)

    by medcalf (68293) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @02:34PM (#41303251) Homepage
    Because "troll" is apparently "disagree", especially lately.
  • 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: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 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.
  • Re:yikes! (Score:4, Informative)

    by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:34PM (#41304243)

    why not take the linux or some other open source code and sell it without giving back to the community?

    That is perfectly legal and encouraged. Go ahead!

  • Re:yikes! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @03:43PM (#41304343) Homepage Journal

    He might have been modded troll because he's too gopddamned lazy (or perhaps ignorant) to use his shift key. I can see the logic of modding someone who writes unreadable prose "troll", although "overrated" would be better.

    Note to aliterates, illiterates, those who can't do homophones or know how to use an apostrophe: All your comments are overrated and I will mod them as such, and so will many other literates who chafe at reading uneducated tripe.

    This used to be a place where educated, intelligent people come. Looking like a hipster or a jock IS a troll on a nerd site; we're nerds, not jocks and hipsters. For instance, if your honest opinion is that science is useless, you're automatically a troll here, just as an honest opinion that there is no God on a Christian site is a troll, Medicare should die on an AARP site is a troll, and an opinion that sports are stupid on a jock site is a troll.

    So he and everybody else can take their hip "txtspk" and go somewhere else; they're not welcome. They are trolls. They need to go away and stop bothering those of us who read books once in a while.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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