from the isn't-that-what-they-count-on? dept
A bunch of folks have been sending in Nate Anderson's article about how ignoring an RIAA lawsuit may be "cheaper" than going to trial
. It makes for a nice storyline, but it's really not entirely accurate. It's based on the fact that Judge Gertner, who was the judge in the Joel Tenenbaum trial, just handed out some default judgments against people who never bothered to respond at all to an RIAA lawsuit over file sharing. In each case, Gertner chose the statutory minimum of $750 per song, much less than Jammie Thomas got in her two trials and Joel Tenenbaum received in his trial.
But, of course, these aren't apples-to-apples comparisons (not to mention that we're dealing with a classic "small sample size" problem). Specifically, the three trials involved a combination of poorly argued defenses that made the defendants look worse, combined with defendants themselves who both admitted to lying. And, add to that the fact that they're jury trials, where juries tend to give out larger awards than a judge does, and it's really not a huge surprise. If you had defendants who actually had a real case, combined with a defense team that actually argued the specific points, things might have been different. But, it looks like, with both Thomas and Tenenbaum, the goal was to create a bigger case that can get attention at higher levels to take on certain aspects of copyright law itself.
And, of course, as an addendum on the article notes, it's still probably cheaper to settle up in the first place, but that's exactly how the RIAA intends things to be. It's the same principle on which an extortion scam works: it's cheaper to pay up than to fight it. But, that doesn't mean it's right to just shut up and pay -- especially if the accused is innocent. As much as the RIAA must love Anderson's article, because it encourages people not to fight its lawsuits, the reality is a lot more complicated.