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The Courts Music Piracy The Almighty Buck

Special Master Appointed In Jammie Thomas Case 147

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "There has been another odd development in the Jammie Thomas-Rassett case. You may recall that after the judge reduced the RIAA's verdict from $1.92 million to $54,000 on the grounds that $54,000 was the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award, the RIAA opted for a third trial instead of allowing judgment to be entered. Its reasoning in making that call has never been clear, since there seemed little point in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a trial which could produce no more than a judgment for $54,000 or less. Apparently the court thinks taxpayers' money could be better spent, and has appointed a 'Special Master' to bring about 'meaningful settlement discussions,' with the Master's $400-per-hour fee to be paid by the RIAA. One commentator suggests the RIAA should at this juncture just say, 'Thanks Jammie, we've had all we can get out of you and caused you enough grief — pay us $1 and we'll forget about it.' Actually doing that would be a lot less costly and more reasonable that what they appear to have in mind."
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Special Master Appointed In Jammie Thomas Case

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  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday June 21, 2010 @06:02PM (#32646710)

    For a case to set precedent, it has to be decided by a court that has jurisdiction over the matter. Settlements don't count. Now while they can be used informally, a thing of "This person settled with us, you should too," they have no weight in trial.

    The reason is because you can sue anyone over anything and that can settle out of court, no matter how stupid. For example suppose you sue me for being ugly. You really could file a lawsuit for that, stupid though it may be. If it went to trial, it'd get thrown out in preliminaries. However, suppose I choose to settle with you for whatever reason. That's my right. I give you $5 to drop the suit. Done and done.

    If that was precedent, you could then try to use it to file successful suits against other people, despite the fact it is clearly a stupid, frivolous, lawsuit.

    As such the court would give it no weight at all. You file another ugly suit and say "But this guy settled with me over it!" They'll say "Don't care, case dismissed, plaintiff ordered to pay court costs."

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday June 21, 2010 @06:06PM (#32646754) Journal

    At lease IMHO. (IANAL and am not sure what ins-and-outs of possibly setting a bad precedent might be involved.)

    But assume they're after using the legal system to cause as much pain as possible for those they're after, as an example to others who might consider using file sharing services to download music, and it makes a lot of sense.

    That would be using the horrendous costs of the civil system to create the same incentive structure as the criminal justice system, but without the latter's higher standard of proof or the necessity of passing laws to actually criminalize the behavior or convincing the prosecutors to spend time going after music fans (who might just be voters) rather than rapists and murderers.

  • I'm not a lawyer but I would bet they would prefer to spend $2 million to get a $1 million settlement

    The judge has already ruled that the maximum they can get is $54,000. So the range of possible verdicts at the 3rd trial would be from 0 to $54,000.

  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @07:43AM (#32651388)

    The price of copying data has dropped to almost nothing. So what? The price of creating the data in the first place hasn't.

    As a lifelong musician, I can tell you that "creating the data", in the case of recording and publishing music, has most certainly gone down by orders of magnitude. My blues band has two CDs out on iTunes, AmazonMP3, and about 5 or 6 others and total cost (not counting the equipment we already had, but including the costs of publishing) was around $800, with physical CDs with liner & disc/cover artwork at about $2 each in 100-lots ready for sale as needed, complete with UPC coding/registration.

    That's a small fraction of the cost to do the same thing in the '70s...or even the '80s or '90s, for that matter. That's one of the major reasons behind their aggressive attempts to maintain and increase their control of distribution channels, as well as using fear tactics rather indiscriminately against anyone using this, to them, "new intertubes thing" to violate copyright.

    The internet is a threat because it's a distribution channel they don't control, so they hope to both scare potential infringers while using them as an excuse to lobby for legislation to increase control of the internet and it's users while removing privacy, anonymity, and individual freedom.

    But, long as they don't have to do anything like adapt to a changing world, what does the hampering of technological progress and the loss of a few rights & freedoms matter, eh? Those lawyers they use to avoid audits of their books and cheat artists aren't cheap, never mind the hookers & blow.


In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle