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Music The Almighty Buck The Courts

Judge Lowers Jammie Thomas' Damages to $54,000 390

An anonymous reader writes "Judge Michael Davis has slashed the amount Jammie Thomas-Rassett is said to owe Big Music from almost $2,000,000 to $54,000. 'The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music. Moreover, although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages.' The full decision (PDF) is also available."
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Judge Lowers Jammie Thomas' Damages to $54,000

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  • My favorite part (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:24PM (#30863658)
    Per NewYorkCountryLawyer []:

    Judge Davis also indicated that he found even the reduced amount to be "harsh" and that, were he -- rather than a jury -- deciding the appropriate measure of damages, the award would have been even lower than $54,000. But he felt that since the jury had determined the damages, it was his province to determine only the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award.

  • Some relation? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rix ( 54095 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:26PM (#30863692)

    The wholesale price of 24 songs is $16.80. $54,000 is over 3,000 times the maximum possible damages.

  • Re:3 - 5 years? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yold ( 473518 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:38PM (#30863848)

    Well, "he" is a single mother of 4 who works w/ a Tribal Council, meaning she is probably paid a little better than a social worker. Considering the fact that you can buy a decent house in the boonies around Duluth for $60,000, I'd say that this will greatly cut into her kids' college fund.


  • The maximum actual damages is ~35 cents per infringed work, since the wholesale price is ~70 cents and the expenses are around ~35 cents. Under constitutional principles, the statutory damages awarded should not have exceeded $1.40 per infringed work, or a total of $33.60. Even the reduced award is 6428 times the actual damages, a grossly excessive amount.
  • Re:My favorite part (Score:5, Informative)

    by PunditGuy ( 1073446 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:50PM (#30864014)
    $750 minimum x treble damages for willful infringement x 24 violations = $54000.
  • Wow, really, troll? (Score:1, Informative)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:55PM (#30864088) Homepage Journal

    I corrected his flawed analogy, how is that trolling? Anyone who is still under the misunderstanding that this is about DOWNLOADING songs needs to be corrected. This is about UPLOADING songs.

    I strongly disagree with the heft of the fine, but not to the point that I am willing to pander incorrect information to people. Yes, the fine for UPLOADING songs in this case is very likely excessive. I fail to see how clarifying that mistake is a trolling act.

    In response to the AC about where I came up with the number 3,000, the GGP posted this:

    The wholesale price of 24 songs is $16.80. $54,000 is over 3,000 times the maximum possible damages.

    So IF a person were to distribute 3000 CDs of protected content, the maximum possible damages would be $54,000. So IF the defendant UPLOADED 3,000 albums worth of music, the maximum possible damages would also be $54,000.


  • Re:They need to (Score:4, Informative)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:05PM (#30864218) Journal

    I assume you're proposing your idea of slander and damages, not trying to recite your current understanding of the law in this area.

    IANAL, but a quick google turned up this interesting page about defamation and harm. Quoting (emphasis mine):

    The Libel or Slander must Harm or Damage the Plaintiff

    Where libel is concerned, damages are presumed and the plaintiff need not prove special harm. Special harm is harm to one's reputation that results in monetary losses. If the libelous matter requires proof of additional, or extrinsic, facts for one to understand its defamatory meaning or its reference to the plaintiff, it is called libel per quod, which does require proof of special harm.

    Slander generally requires proof of special harm. If the defamatory statement amounts to slander per se, however, the plaintiff is not required to prove special harm; damage is presumed. Slander per se includes statements that the plaintiff engaged in criminal behavior or sexual misconduct or that the plaintiff has a communicable disease. Statements that adversely affect the plaintiff's trade or profession are also slander per se.

    Read more at Suite101: The Law of Defamation: Libel or Slander and Causing Harm to Reputation []

    So, in your precise scenario, spreading lies (verbally or published) that damage my business reputation are automatically presumed to cause damage. According to this Wikipedia page [], all states of the United States except Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee consider "allegations or imputations injurious to another in their trade, business, or profession" to be defamatory per se.

  • Re:Some relation? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:09PM (#30864262)

    What distribution? The plaintiff could not prove distribution - period - therefor it did not happen.

  • Re:My favorite part (Score:4, Informative)

    by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:13PM (#30864342) Homepage

    Well, he might have chosen to triple it, but treble damages are not part of the statute.

    Willfulness merely raises the maximum amount that can be awarded per work infringed from $30,000 to $150,000. Nothing prevents a court from awarding the minimum of $750 per work infringed even for willful infringements.

  • Re:My favorite part (Score:5, Informative)

    by EvanED ( 569694 ) <evaned@gmail. c o m> on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:24PM (#30864456)

    Well, he might have chosen to triple it, but treble damages are not part of the statute.

    This is correct; the decision addresses this issue:

    Of course, the Copyright Act contains no treble damages provision. The Courts remittitur is not an attempt to create such a provision. Rather, the Court has labored to fashion a reasonable limit on statutory damages awards against noncommercial individuals who illegally download and upload music such that the award of statutory damages does not veer into the realm of gross injustice. Finding a precise dollar amount that delineates the border between the jurys wide discretion to calculate its own number to address ThomasRassets willful violations, Plaintiffs farreaching, but nebulous damages, and the need to deter online piracy in general and the outrageousness of a $2 million verdict is a considerable task. The Court concludes that setting the limit at three times the minimum statutory damages amount in this case is the most reasoned solution.

  • What about the distribution part?

    There was no evidence of her acting as a distributor. That would have required proof that she
    -disseminated copies
    -to the public
    -by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by a rental, lease or lending. There was no proof of any of those.

  • by Areyoukiddingme ( 1289470 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:47PM (#30864698)

    As has been pointed out, that's roughly the value of a house in the area of the country she lives in. She's married now so I'm guessing she'll quit her job (if she hasn't already), and never work for a wage again. Since she can't get rid of the judgment by declaring bankruptcy, she has no incentive to ever earn money that will only be taken away from her.

    So the RIAA has only succeeded in removing one person from the labor pool. Congratulations.

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:59PM (#30864790) Journal

    Since she can't get rid of the judgment by declaring bankruptcy, she has no incentive to ever earn money that will only be taken away from her.

    Unless the RIAA snuck in an extra provision to the Bankruptcy Act (and I wouldn't put it past them), civil judgements ARE generally dischargeable in bankruptcy. The Bankruptcy Act ReForm bill passed a few years ago does make it more difficult to declare real bankruptcy (Chapter 7) rather than slavery bankruptcy (Chapter 13). I'm sure the RIAA would prefer to have the only option be Chapter .45, but if they got their way a few RIAA execs might end up on the receiving end of that as well.

  • Re:learn to read? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lord Bitman ( 95493 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:04PM (#30864820) Homepage

    the average seed ratio is between 0 and 2 uploads per download. 100 is possible, but highly unlikely. 3000 is absolutely absurd, especially for someone who is supposedly only sharing 24 songs.

  • by LandDolphin ( 1202876 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:10PM (#30864868)
    In case you were unaware, you don't have to upload 3000 copies of a file for 3000 people to be able to download the file.
  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:13PM (#30864898)

    Where did you get 3,000 CDs?

    It was right in the parent post.

    See that little 'parent' button right next to 'reply' ? Try clicking it some time. It might give you an insight into what everyone else is talking about.

    You'll see how this works in a few hours when this post is modded flamebait due to others doing exactly what you did, not reading the parent post and thus replying to this comment 100% out of context :P

  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover ( 1679530 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:31PM (#30865024)

    > Any simple solution to a complex problem is wrong.

    Either false or a tautology. For example, if one runs a prison and has no money for more guards or walls or floodlights, so people keep cutting through the fence and coming in to break people out or smuggle drugs, a simple solution may prove very effective for the short-term: buy a couple of chickens and put them around the prison. They'll go crazy whenever anyone noses around, and you suddenly have a cheap alarm system. (True story.)

    In the alternative, a complex problem may by definition be one that has no simple solution.

    In this case, the simple solution to a complex problem is to have an option to pay for music using alternative methods--dollars (or pennies) to buy a song, dollars for a subscription service, time in the form of advertisements or saleable tasks. And songs released into the public domain once they're a certain number of years old or have earned a certain number of dollars.

  • Re:My favorite part (Score:5, Informative)

    by nacturation ( 646836 ) * <> on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:40PM (#30865636) Journal

    Bullshit. $54,000 is one THIRD of the median home price. Where do you get your information, and why did you bother posting that?

    Quit trolling. The original statement was:

    To put it in perspective, $54,000 would buy a house in her neighborhood.

    So here you go. A house for $54,000 in Brainerd, Minnesota: []

  • Off-topic but (Score:4, Informative)

    by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <> on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:57PM (#30865772)

    I'm a student-IT assistant at my university (it's like $40 a week, but I don't have to do anything). Part of this job is handing out infringement notices.

    I've only done a few, but I have to say - they're doing these right. First of all, they are sending out DMCA C&Ds (which is an order to remove the infringing material i.e. delete it, and not get caught again), not lawsuits. Second, they have the list of the exact files, infringing products, dates and times, and checksums - all linked to the IP address which has been duly looked up by our IT department (we are, after all, an ISP and bound by the same rules). They actually send the whole thing along as an XML file, with a custom schema

    Maybe they're just laying off a bit because it's college students. But they're really being quite reasonable IMHO - and this is coming from someone who did, and does, hate the MPAA/RIAA with the burning passion of a thousand firey suns. No lawsuits, and it effectively boils down to a warning. If it comes to it, they leave discipline to the university (who will cut of 'net access, or worse).

    Big media is still a leech, contributing little of value to the creative process - but when they make an accusation, they at least aren't being dicks about it.


  • Re:They need to (Score:3, Informative)

    by dhasenan ( 758719 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @09:55PM (#30866180)

    Slander per se != slander.

  • Re:My favorite part (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @08:17AM (#30868772) Journal

    You could buy a house for £140k on my street. I know this, I'm living in it.

    90% of the houses on my street cost £280k to £400k. I couldn't even get a mortgage on those houses, let alone afford to pay one.

    Yet it would be perfectly reasonable to state that you could buy a house for £140k on my street. That it's not the median price, the mean price or indeed all that much above the lowest prices doesn't invalidate that, and does highlight just how much money £140k would be to someone in my area, even those living in the £400k houses.

    So you may understand that statement to mean the typical price of an item, but I don't, and I'm guessing the person that originally made it doesn't.

  • Look on the bright side: $54k isn't going to pay RIAA's fees, either.

    The RIAA has probably spent a million dollars on this case.

  • NewYorkCountryLawyer, why do you insist on ignoring the DISTRIBUTING side of things?

    I don't ignore it. I just recognize that in this case there was no proof of
    -her disseminating copies
    -to the public
    -by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending....

    all of which are required for distribution under the Copyright Act.

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