'Innocent Infringement' As A Way To Lower Copyright Infringement Damages?

from the seems-like-a-stretch dept

You often hear it repeated that “ignorance is no defense” to breaking the law, but it may actually be working in one copyright infringement lawsuit. Ray Beckerman has the details on a case where the RIAA is suing a teenager who claimed “innocent infringement” as a way to get the damages lowered from the $750 to $150,000 per file that the RIAA always pushes for. So, while the RIAA pointed out that there was a copyright notice on every CD, the court sided with the girl who pointed out that there was no such copyright notice on Kazaa or the songs she downloaded. In fact, she wasn’t even aware that she was “downloading” — assuming that Kazaa worked more like a radio. Of course, before others make the same argument, it does pay to recognize that the facts in this case are likely to be unique to this case, and probably don’t apply in many other cases. The real problem still remains the ridiculous disconnect between the amount of “damages” allowed under the law and the actual “harm” (if any) caused by file sharing.

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Companies: riaa

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Comments on “'Innocent Infringement' As A Way To Lower Copyright Infringement Damages?”

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Willton says:

Re: umm

I find a problem with “innocent” being “found guilty and charged”…this is still pretty freakin absurd by logic.

If it makes you feel better, the technical term in civil acitons is “liable,” not “guilty.” “Guilty” is a term used in criminal court. Civil actions don’t deal with guilt and innocence – only liability.

Federico Cáceres says:

So true

You’d be surprised by the amount of people I spoke to, regarding P2P copyrighted material downloads, that didn’t even suspect they were doing something illegal. It’s just like this girl’s case, “but this isn’t any different from taping songs from the radio” they say to me. (By the way, is that illegal?)

There is a serious case of unawareness among the general population regarding the nature of copyrighted material sharing, most think it has become something too “normal” to be even considered as “bad”.

Interesting, isn’t it?

PaulT (profile) says:

It’s a step in right direction to some extent, but it’s still pretty wrong. It’s obvious that a person file sharing online does not do damage in the same way that a professional CD pirate does, and therefore the standard copyright penalties should not apply. It’s right that a lower tier is being offered. Even so, this girl apparently didn’t know that any harm was being done – a warning letter would have sufficed to get her to stop.

Now, we have a lawsuit, a family standing to be ruined by this case. The RIAA gain nothing – the roughly $7000 penalty won’t pay for a day of lawyers on the other, more frivolous cases – yet they’re gotten rid of a set of potentially good customers. Nothing is gained here elsewhere – the people who downloaded from this girl will not suddenly go out and buy a CD. If anything, her family and friends may feel she’s been poorly treated and boycott the RIAA in protest. I’m glad I did that a long time ago.

Ed says:

Profit needs to be the deciding factor

There really needs to be a fundamental change in copyright law, that separates copying into three categories:

1)Coping purchased content for personal use. Legal, period. Regardless of DRM, format change, modification. I bought it, it is mine, to do with as I please, “for personal use”.

2)Coping to distribute for free (a la Kazaa). The Fine should be commensurate with the lose of profit (not revenue) say $0.50 a song times N, where N is some REASONABLE guesstimate. $200 a song seems fair. If you download from Kazaa, $0.50 per song downloaded.

3)Coping for profit (i.e for sale). Everything you made, and more besides. Seems fair to me.

Terry G says:

My son is a student at Duke University in North Carolina. He is a child of a single mother who went to school there on an athletic scholarship. We are in no way well off. I am am a hard working widowed mother. The RIAA is suing my son for copyright infringment for filesharing (He had it set to no sharing allowed until the University came and changed something with the computer set-up and then he got the dreaded letter)- the subpeona says Total Audio Files 811 and then it shows 9 song titles below that. Will he be charged for all 811 files?

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