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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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  • They need to (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:32PM (#30863776)

    although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages

    Plaintiffs should, without a doubt, be required to prove actual damages. If they can't, their case gets thrown out. That is how it should be. I don't think it would work this way with anything physical. If someone stole a CD from a music store, that cost $10, they cost $200 in labor, and $150 in court costs, they shouldn't have to pay anything more than $500 (assuming we are inflating the price for deterrence). If I said that I shouldn't have to prove what the CD costs and say that the CD is worth $10,000, the court should throw out the case or very, very, very much reduce the value because I didn't do my homework. The same thing should happen with imaginary property.

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

    by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:35PM (#30863820)
    I know it won't be as funny pointing out the irony, but it's his decision on what is the maximum amount reasonable so he goes on to say that he can't make the amount lower because it isn't his decision? How the hell did he drop it to $54,000 if it wasn't his decision?
  • Re:They need to (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:36PM (#30863824)
    Devil's advocate: What's the labor involved in tracking down P2P users? They use some pretty sophisticated tech to catch people these days--someone had to pay to develop it--and they hire agencies for the specific purpose of tracking violators and even poisoning torrents in some cases. The cost of enforcement is pretty high, so actual damages might have to include those.
  • It's a positive (Score:5, Interesting)

    Yes the amount is still absurd, but at least the principle that the statutory damages must bear a reasonable relationship to the actual damages has been invoked and vindicated. My blog post is here: Jammie Thomas verdict reduced from $1.92M to $54,000 [] and my Slasdhot submission is here [].
  • Re:They need to (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:40PM (#30863882)
    Well, I wouldn't think that for one the RIAA would want to bring these agencies to the light of law, a lot of times they use illegal methods to take down torrents and track people. Would a physical store want to hire thieves to break into homes to re-steal the items and then sue for them?
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @05:43PM (#30863912) Journal

    Ok, call me paranoid, but could this be an attempt to defuse the situation? $2M damages for 2 CDs worth of songs is outrageous enough to get the attention of even the most complacent. $54K, although a heavy burden, is significantly less so and (seems to me) much less likely to cause a general backlash.

  • Re:Quick! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:12PM (#30864326) Homepage

    Multiples of reasonable and resemblance to actual damages done are almost entirely unrelated. In this case both are pretty accurate. You could be the guy who uploads a screener of Avatar and could quite reasonably have done several million dollars in damages, but that's hardly payable. Conversely, they could track you down for seeding an album that NOBODY ever downloaded, and hit you for a much-more-payable three grand despite having done precisely $0 in damage.

    That said, both are pretty accurate in this example.

  • Irony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:52PM (#30864734) Homepage

    Here's a spot of irony for you...

    We used to say, "Dude, it's just infringement. It's not really theft."

    Now we say, "Christ, it's just petty theft."

  • No, they can't (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tobiah ( 308208 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @07:56PM (#30865256)
    The judgement is against Jammie Thomas, not the husband. They should probably take the precaution of making deposits to an account where he is the primary account owner, assuming she doesn't file for bankruptcy. Even if she doesn't file, the law will limit how much she has to pay per month on this judgement. The court does examine her income and living expenses and comes up with something "reasonable".
  • Re:My favorite part (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roju ( 193642 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:19PM (#30865444)

    It's not a binding precedent, but it's still a precedent. See persuasive precedent [].

  • Re:My favorite part (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yndrd1984 ( 730475 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @08:45PM (#30865680)

    The guy spouted something as a fact, while actually speaking out of his butt, and I called him on it, along with providing actual, factual data.

    Your rant is cute, but ignores the most important point: the "actual, factual data" you were kind enough to link to completely vindicates that other guy and proves you to be incorrect, because she really could buy a house in that neighborhood for that amount.

  • Re:My favorite part (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday January 23, 2010 @02:36AM (#30867510)

    What the US needs is a process where the higher courts randomly get some percentage of important cases referred from the lower courts for review.

    Even though the party taking the action doesn't want to set precedent.

    That way, useful precedent can be set, for judicial consistency, even when the case never makes it to appeal...

  • The point is that the $750 per infringement is already an absurd amount. Considering that Exxon got off with only a 1:1 punitive to compensitory damage ratio after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill (which devastated Prince William Sound), it boggles the mind that violating copyright is somehow worthy of a minimum of 1000 times the actual price of the song. Yes, we all know that copyright infringement is based off statutory damages, but so what? How do we go from one type of damage being strictly limited on a Constitutional basis to a ratio in the single digits, yet anywhere from 1000:1 to 200000:1 as a law is not prima facie thrown out?

    We don't.

    Judge Davis should have limited the recovery to less than $50, since the actual damages per infringed work were only around 35 cents.

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