|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] RIAA losing another one on the copyright laws
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Date: Sat, 23 Jan 2010 18:47:09 -0500
From: Ruben Safir
Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] RIAA losing another one on the copyright laws
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Judge lowers Jammie Thomas' piracy penalty
Updated at 2:03 p.m. PST to include quotes from RIAA, music industry
sources, and Jammie Thomas-Rasset's attorney.
A U.S. district court has dramatically slashed the amount of money a
Minnesota woman must pay in damages for illegally sharing music online.
After a jury last year found Jammie Thomas-Rasset liable for $1.9
million in damages, a judge says that's too much.
(Credit: Jammie Thomas-Rasset)
Last June, a federal jury in Minnesota found Jammie Thomas-Rasset liable
for willful copyright infringement and ordered her to pay nearly $2
million. Michael Davis, chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the
District of Minnesota, chopped the amount to $54,000, or $2,250 per
"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," wrote Davis.
The Recording Industry Association of America accused Thomas-Rasset in
2007 of illegal file sharing, and after refusing to admit guilt or
settle with the RIAA, she became the first person to take her case to
court. She has become something of a cause celebre for anticopyright
proponents. In a phone interview with CNET, Joe Sibley, one of
Thomas-Rasset's attorneys, said the judge corrected an obvious
"His decision reflects that the jury committed an abuse and the judge
corrected it," Sibley said. "He made it much more equitable and this was
much closer to the $0 award that we were seeking."
An RIAA spokesman said that the lobbying group for the four major record
companies is "reviewing the decision."
As for what happens next, Sibley said Thomas-Rasset's legal team hasn't
decided whether they to accept the $54,000 award or challenge that as
On the other side, it is the music industry that must make some
important decisions quickly. In Davis' decision, he told the RIAA that
it has seven days to either accept the lower damage amount or schedule a
new trial on damages. Whatever decision the music industry makes could
have serious effects on all copyright owners, said Ben Sheffner, an
entertainment attorney and former journalist who blogs about copyright
issues and the person who broke the news about Davis' decision.
While the RIAA won't discuss its plans, music industry sources said
leaders at the top four recording companies aren't displeased with
Davis' decision. First, the RIAA never expected to collect $2 million
from Thomas-Rasset, who has acknowledged being of limited means. Next,
the judge affirmed the jury's decision that Thomas-Rasset was guilty of
willful copyright infringement and that was pivotal.
The music industry never wanted to take Thomas-Rasset to a trial, but
when she refused to settle, the music industry had to show that the
courts considered the downloading of music without paying for it
Thomas-Rasset's legal team, attorneys Joe Sibley (left) and Kiwi Camara,
haven't decided whether to challenge the $54,000 damage award yet.
(Credit: Camara & Sibley law firm)
But here's the rub. My sources say the music industry now wants the
Thomas-Rasset story to go away. They don't want to spend any more
resources challenging Davis' decision to lower the damages. RIAA
executives have offered her settlement terms before, but look for new
negotiations to get underway soon.
All of that notwithstanding, Davis' decision could be a setback for
copyright owners. The music industry had argued that the court didn't
have the authority to alter the amount awarded by the jury as it was
within federal guidelines set by Congress, said Sheffner. RIAA attorneys
held that as long as the jury awarded an amount within that range, the
award was legal.
Obviously, Davis didn't agree and a lot of other groups, including the
film industry, may have a stake in what happens now.
"The labels have a lot of hard thinking over the next week--tactically
and strategically--about the various issues," Sheffner said. "The
judge's ruling could have an effect on other cases."
It's important to note that Davis did not in any way condone illegal
file sharing. He wrote that even reduced damages are still "significant
and harsh." He also ordered Thomas-Rasset to never infringe the music
industry's copyright again and to destroy music she obtained illegally.
Originally posted at Media Maverick