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Piracy Software The Almighty Buck The Courts

Actual Damages For 1 Download = Cost of a 1 License 647

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In Real View v 20-20 Technologies, it was held that the actual copyright infringement damages for a single unauthorized download of a computer program was the lost license fee that would have been charged. The judge, in the District Court of Massachusetts, granted remittitur, reducing the jury's verdict from $1,370,590.00 to $4200 unless the plaintiff seeks a new trial. Something tells me the plaintiff will seek a new trial."
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Actual Damages For 1 Download = Cost of a 1 License

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  • by hibiki_r ( 649814 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @01:35PM (#38549178)

    Unauthorized downloads are very different from, say, selling a program as your creation. In this case, we are dealing with just copying apps without permission, so you are comparing apples and oranges.

  • Re:Jury's verdict? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @01:40PM (#38549232)

    jury selection ensures only the most idiotic housewives/unemployed/dullards/rednecks will serve. if you have a brain and can think for yourself, they don't want you. if you dare let on you know about jury nullification, they kick you out.

    they want jurys to be dumb.

    and we get the justice system that we 'encourage' via this.

    not really a surprise. judges tell the juries that the judge is the only one to interpret the laws; but that's just not true at all.

    still, given how tends to get allowed to sit on the jury, I'm not sure JN is all that helpful. but I still find it offensive that the US justice system allows JN but won't allow it to be mentioned!

  • by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @01:43PM (#38549282)

    If you RTFA, the judge concludes that the jury based the 1.3 million actual damages on loss of revenue. The judge basically ruled that the loss of revenue was not proven to be caused by the illegal download.

    This doesn't apply to the RIAA because as has been stated in other comments, if the copyright is registered, the penalty is no longer limited to actual damages.

  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @01:52PM (#38549346) Journal

    The alternative: he licenses from the original author under different conditions.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:03PM (#38549446)
    Here's part of what the judge said in his instructions to the jury: " By statute -- and here is what the statute says -- you may award 20-20's lost profits resulting from the infringement and Real View's profits attributable to the infringement. In making this determination, you may consider what 20-20 may have reasonably charged for a license permitting Real View's use of the 20-20 Design program, any design costs that Real View saved by its use of the 20-20 Design and the development of ProKitchen and any benefit Real View obtained by its use of 20-20 Design in the development of ProKitchen." The jury ignored those instructions and incorrectly assessed a verdict based on an assumption that Real View had used infringing material in the product they sold. If they had done that and 20-20 had shown it in court, damages would have been appropriate. But no such thing was shown in court, so Real View was only entitled to actual damages equal to the cost they saved by stealing a copy of 20-20's program. As for how the courts and punish lawbreaking, there's a separate mechanism for that: award of punitive damages and court costs. There's no justification for improperly inflating actual damages.
  • by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:06PM (#38549488)

    it's worth pointing out in this case what the reason was that prompted the jury to award such a high award in the first place.

    Both of the plaintiff and the defendant in this case are software development companies. In both cases, they produce CAD software for home and home design use. In this particular case, the particular software packages in question were those for kitchen design.

    Real view were developing a freeware CAD package which would be supported by premium-priced furniture, appliance and decoration add-ons. In contrast, 20-20, which was already a major player in this market, sold a fully featured package for $4200.

    The infringement in this case was that real view had illegally downloaded a pirate copy of 20-20's flagship product, and then used that as part of their development process for their own product. In particular, they effectively cloned the GUI and a number of other features, so that users who had previously used 20-20's product could switch to the new real view product without retraining.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:07PM (#38549498)
    Juries have the right as well as the power to decide questions of law and fact. Most current judges seem to greatly disagree with this, but it is the law of the land.

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury_trial [wikipedia.org]:

    Supreme Court case Sparf et al. v. U.S. 156 U.S. 51 (1895), generally considered the pivotal case concerning the rights and powers of the jury, declared: "It is our deep and settled conviction, confirmed by a re-examination of the authorities that the jury, upon the general issue of guilty or not guilty in a criminal case, have the right, as well as the power, to decide, according to their own judgment and consciences, all questions, whether of law or of fact, involved in that issue."
  • by capnkr ( 1153623 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:14PM (#38549562)

    Please, please take the time to (re)educate yourself regarding the function and purpose of individual jurors. Although many people believe as you do that:

    My understanding is that the jury's job is to decide any facts that are in dispute, such as whether someone did something. A judge decides matters of law, such as whether that something is illegal.

    ...this is most emphatically NOT the truth.

    If you'll visit the FIJA website [fija.org] (Fully Informed Jury Association), it is explained in plain and easily understandable language why a jury has the right and duty to sit in judgment of the law as well as the/any disputed facts.

    That said, do not tell the judge or lawyers that you have this knowledge. Otherwise you risk getting sidelined from the process, put under a bench warrant which makes you unable to sit on a jury or inform any other jurors of their rights and duties. I know this because it happened to me.

  • by AcidPenguin9873 ( 911493 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:18PM (#38549592)

    Nope, your analogy doesn't work: I've never seen anyone use "Murder is not stealing" to justify murder, or "Stealing is not murder" to justify stealing. I have seen many, many people use "Copyright infringement is not stealing" in an attempt to justify copyright infringement.

  • by Mathinker ( 909784 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @02:31PM (#38549698) Journal

    Perhaps you didn't read the fine article.

    The original owner would NOT have sold a license to the competitor. The competitor appears to have deprived the original owner of their LEAD TIME and possibly some sales.

    The competitor allegedly downloaded the software illegally and analyzed it to produce a competing product.

    This helped the competitor save lots of R&D time. And they sold many copies of the resulting competing product.

    Don't misrepresent the competitor's actions as using the illegally downloaded software to discover trade secrets of the original owner. He merely copied "Look and Feel". The court decided that the use the competitor made of the software itself was perfectly legal, and the only illegal action was the download itself.

    Or perhaps you didn't read the fine court decision?

  • It's the big out-in-the-open secret - everyone knows about jury nullification, but the first rule of jury nullification is you don't talk about jury nullification.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 31, 2011 @03:37PM (#38550250)

    They didn't 'take' anything though, any more than you're 'taking' something from me by writing down what I say and reading your notes to your mother over the phone.

    A "download" doesn't actually move anything. It's just a high-tech equivalent of communicating by smoke signals, just using millions of them and going REALLY fast.

    Downloading something without paying for a license is taking the same thing you take if you climb a tree and watch a local school football game from outside the fence instead of buying a ticket.

    Perhaps that's why people have such "shoddy moral grounds" about it -- the morals involved are those that relate to plagiarism or perhaps "Teacher! Timmy's copying me!", not those of property rights.

  • by cstacy ( 534252 ) on Saturday December 31, 2011 @05:17PM (#38551204)

    Not to mention you have thousands upon thousands of years where there was no such thing as copyright, and it in no way prevented people from either creating new works of art, nor from earning a living from them.

    You're a little confused or ignorant of history: for thousands of years there were very few books, they were available only to a few very rich people, and in general the world was a very different place. Very recently in history, the printing press was invented. And authors immediately started getting screwed by copying.

  • by Kalriath ( 849904 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:17AM (#38555168)

    Have you actually read the damn decision? At issue is one company downloading a competitor's product so that they could copy the software (it was found that they didn't actually copy the software, but the judge stated that the jury could consider whether the defendant saved time and effort in developing their software by taking inspiration from the pirated software.

    Yeah, not the same thing at all.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein