Court Reduces Award In Jammie Thomas-Rasset Case From $80,000 Per Song To $2,250

from the and-so-it-goes dept

It looks like the judge who oversaw the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case realized that the original $1.92 million award was just ridiculous — even if the Justice Department supported it. Instead, the court has reduced the award to $2,250 per song, saying that seems much more reasonable:

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. Moreover, although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages

While I question the use of “stealing” here, and still think that $2,250 seems pretty high (even the judge admits that if he weren’t reducing the amount from the jury and had been able to set the amount originally, he probably would have gone even lower), this case had all sorts of problems from the start — with tremendous evidence (well beyond just an IP address) that Jammie was, in fact, doing a fair amount of file sharing. Her defense and attempted reasoning were weak and not at all helpful. This seems like a case where she would be better off paying this off (somehow) and moving on.

It’s now in the hands of the record labels if they’ll accept this or if they want to have a new trial concerning damages. Again, for them, this might be a situation where they’re best off accepting it and moving on. The original $80,000 damages got the labels a ton of bad press, with even the musicians whose music was shared speaking out against the case and other musicians arguing it was a reason to disband the RIAA.

Update: News.com suggests both sides might appeal. The interesting part is from the labels who, like I suggested above, do want to just bury this story and have the case be over with — but might be worried about setting a precedent allowing a judge to lower a jury award.

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Comments on “Court Reduces Award In Jammie Thomas-Rasset Case From $80,000 Per Song To $2,250”

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72 Comments
Monarch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If I stole all those from Wal-Mart and got caught, I’d probably have a $200.00 some community service and probation. I think I’d rather have the misdemeanor on my record and the small fine and community service instead of a $50k to $2mil fine!!!

Basically Sarcastic-Mike, the judge is trying to limit the Artist expression / RIAA / license to steal to a more reasonable level, and even expresses he would like to lower the RIAA’s license to steal even more!

Eric says:

Re: Sarcastic-Mike

Actually, I’m doing a project on piracy and one thing that I learned is that piracy doesn’t really kill artists. Artists make 9-12% off a CD at retail price and the producer normally takes 3% of that, leaving the artist with lets say 6%. 6% of a $13 cd is 78 cents. they make much more money from merchandise sales and concerts. I’m not endorsing or condoning piracy, but it is a common misconception that artists are getting screwed by piracy. The people losing money are in the record companies which is why the RIAA (recording industry association of america) is pressing all these piracy cases, not the artists themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

The fact is that the original ruling did nothing good for the record labels being that they couldn’t possibly collect that much money from someone who doesn’t have it and so the only thing it brought them was bad publicity. So they figure, as a publicity stunt, they’ll just bribe the judge into lowering the verdict in order to reduce the bad publicity they brought upon themselves.

Before the days of the Internet there would be no need to do such a thing being that our corrupt mainstream media would censor such information (and to the extent that they don’t censor it now, it’s only because public pressure, thanks to the fact that the Internet allows the public to be more aware of such issues despite mainstream media censorship, prevents them from doing so and because they must now compete with the Internet as well).

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

It’s now in the hands of the record labels if they’ll accept this or if they want to have a new trial concerning damages.

There is a third option rarely considered: Pushing the issue on the hundreds of other songs she was actively sharing.

The amount is almost meaningless at this point, as anything over a few hundred dollars a song would be more than enough punishment to make most people think twice, which is the real intention of any punishment system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s absolute nonsense that the MOST that can be granted against a corporation that does something far worse than infringement are triple damages yet for breaking something as useless and harmful to society as an intellectual property law in a way that evil rich people and huge corporations don’t like the damages can be far worse than tripled.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“”
Anything over a few hundred dollars a song would be more than enough punishment to make most people think twice, which is the real intention of any punishment system.

“”

Yo Tam,

I’m starting to think that perhaps you exemplify the maximalist stance. Early 1900s provided much insight that this is typically the result of early childhood development. I’m curious if you’ll share with us your weekly coping activities. Hand cuffs? Sant Andrews Cross? Blindfolds? Gags? Erotic spanking? Whips? Chains? Various contortion acts? Such a strong, repeated stance occurs due to some conditioning or imprintation. Maybe the result of a strong emotional or traumatic experience?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

>smells so bad, that I can smell it over the
>horrid smell of the gutters in front of thai
>street food stands

Earlier this week, I thought you were on vacation somewhere. Did you really mean you’re working and you also take the inequities of your own job issues (which we undoubtedly chose for you) and surroundings and externalize them as our problem?

Gee, you must be a real joy to be around in real life. Forget the implied problems of inadequacy with your father. You appear to have some real problems. Have you considered therapy?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“It’s now in the hands of the record labels if they’ll accept this or if they want to have a new trial concerning damages.

There is a third option rarely considered: Pushing the issue on the hundreds of other songs she was actively sharing.”

There is a fourth option – the people who work for the part of the record labels involved in this campaign of intimidation could go and get a proper job doing something useful.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Hammurabi's approach to Kazaa

It really doesn’t matter “how many counts” you want to trump up the charges with. The fact remains that this is a “first time offender”. Someone like this should not get any more of a punishment/fine than someone that actually steals something from a real brick and mortar store. Some people like to conflate creative works with physical property. Well, that idea has broader implications than just what the copyright maximalists are willing to acknowledge.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Law

> There is a third option rarely considered: Pushing the issue on
> the hundreds of other songs she was actively sharing.

Other than filing an entirely new lawsuit, that’s not an option. The damages can only be based on the evidence presented at trial, which in this case was 24 songs.

An appellate court can’t hear new evidence. Only a trial court can do that. And it can’t reverse or uphold a trial court’s verdict based on anything other than the evidence that was presented at the original trial.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Law

It’s my point.

Now that you have a judgment against Ms Thomas, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as difficult to prove the rest of the infringements. Don’t bother to go to court to appeal, just launch a new lawsuit with the next 50 or 100 songs on it. Remember, nothing has been appealed that overturns the judgment, just the amount.

They don’t have to do this, obviously, and it would be spun + very poorly by the torrentmedia types. $2000 per infringement is still more than enough to discourage most people.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Law

Sorry, but the general public hasn’t really been clued into the risk yet. The way it is explained, people have more chance of winning the lottery.

With more judgements like this, it becomes somewhat easier to move forward with legal action against file sharers, which should make it clearer to the public that they can in fact get caught. That will more than likely change the way some people look at things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Law

“Distributing” a work to which copyright pertains and without the copyright holder’s permission is illegal in the US, as you can readily verify by perusing Title 17 of the United States Code. There may be some limited circumstances where “Fair Use” might pertain, but what Ms. JRT did is not one such circumstance.

To state that The Anti-Mike is “transparent” strongly suggests that you are opaque.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Law

Uh, have you forgotten about something called Statute of Limitations? The plaintiffs only have 3 years from the date of notification of the offense to pursue in court. Since they only sued on the 24 tracks, that’s the maximum number they can ever sue on as the statute has already run it’s limit (notification of the offense of Copyright Infringement was in Feb. 2005, when MediaSentry downloaded from JTR).

Mike, you are an ultimate troll. You provide bad info with no proof of your claims, then entertain us with the ultimate child temper tantrum thrown when you’re proven wrong and you reply with “well, you stink”

Anonymous Coward says:

The original $2M judgment should have been perceived as an indication that Marxism remains in full effect within at least two branches of Government within the USA, and the judicial branch is partially controlled by the monied interests, and the general populous should go forward understanding that certain areas of law will be approached from maximalist position. It should be expected that application of the idiom “Asking the court for mercy” is an outdated philosophy under these new monied rules.

The governmental headpiece, the Executive Office, remains in a state of disarray, but it may decide to go a direction of maximalism in the next election, especially considering yesterday’s Supreme Court decision.

Finally says:

Hey

First of all, I would like to say Copyright (The right to sue someone) is bullshit.

Thank god, finally someone whos a judge that has common sense.
But it is still too freaking high. At least it is 75% lower then the original verdict. Which was 2 million dollars.

But only an idiot can assume that 1 song equal’s to 2250 dollars. I would say the correct verdict should be $100 per track. Good deterent, and it would scare the defendant and whats done is done. Don’t financially disable someone. Fuck you RIAA, ESA, MPAA, BSA. Copyright it’self is bullshit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: bankruptcy

>>Even if you could it removes your
>>ability to get any credit for seven years.

Not necessarily. Bush changed the Bankruåptcy Laws during his first year in office. The law was the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005”. After filing, you are not able to re-file for seven years, so banks that run existential models will typically see you as a “good bet” and will attempt to re-establish a relationship especially if you had a longstanding relationship with them. But the big problem is that bankruptcy covers only one type of capital, Economic. The question is if she’ll translate her Economic loss into political or social capital. Considering the current circumstances, if Jammie was smart, she’d find a way to pay off the record companies, and cash her problems in. Write a book? Maybe a few moderates will help her get into politics. Perhaps she should seek the House of Representatives. But, I have no idea what the political environment in Duluth, MN looks like.

Richard says:

tick ... tock ........

If they made it 30k even, she would be better off filing bankruptcy under chapter 7 judicial hardship.

In all reality, if they want to call it “stealing” they need to admit that it has a finite value. I mean how can you steal something that costs 99 cents and suddenly it’s value is 80k? See we can fix this whole situation by rendering damages to the actual damage of the theft *in the context of intent*. Personal use is simply petty theft (even though download != sale), that said if you *re-sell* the content..well that’s theft of IP in the truest sense. The property in question is not the song, it’s (presumably) the right to exclusivity. When you sell it and actively market it, you violate that tenant. When you download listen and passively share that content you do not. You are not impairing their right to sell it, nor are you enticing others to impair their rights.

When my generation takes political center stage, IP laws will change dramatically. We understand how absurd these monopolies have become and how ideas cannot be possessions anymore than you can control an individuals thoughts.

If they stood to win 25 bucks they wouldn’t drag anyone into court. As for the magnanimous act of not suing citizens, the Dems made a deal with the RIAA/MPAA to stop suing individuals in the US and they would agree to get ACTA rolling again… Of course bad things happen when the rights of a people are signed away by the rulers of free men, as illustrated in Treaty of Versailles.

Anonymous Coward says:

What really happened? Selective enforcement based on PR?

A $2M judgement is typically uncollectable to a general layperson, and would have pushed Jammie Thomas-Rassert into a state of welfare and/or public assistance. It doesn’t change the fact that what she did was wrong. But I wonder what caused such change and reduction in fines. Considering the timeframe, it’s possible that the request came from the RIAA and/or other plaintiffs, who may have suffered internal backlash from artists that desired to produce outside of the traditional label system. Did they then lobby the Court for a reduction like they lobby everyone else for reinforcement?

Anonymous Coward says:

Music labels would get a better result by fining more people less money (say fine them 150% per song, so if a song costs, I dunno, $0.50, charge the person $0.75 per song they’ve downloaded) than fining less people more money.

They “catch” a few people here and there and try to “make an example” of them by fining ridiculous amounts of money, and all it does is make them look bad, piss off a lot of people and generate a lot of bad press. It doesn’t do anything to stop the millions of other people downloading with the attitude of “they’ll never catch me”.

If instead of fining 10-20 people a year ridiculous amounts of money per song, they fined a few thousand people a year a small amount (as in, about what the music is actually worth), piracy would go down because people would feel more at risk of being caught in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I agree, though I would say more like 300% than 150%. Triple-damages is a common benchmark for punitive lawsuits after all, why should copyright infringement be any different. It’s still low enough to provide a realistic chance of receiving payment, and to avoid bad PR. Yet it is high enough to be a deterrent for most people.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s a fail because it isn’t the single download that is the “damage”, it’s the fact that the song was potentially passed on to a million more people.

Even in torrent terms, if the user only shares each part of the song once to a different person, and there are 5000 blocks, then they are part of 5000 infringements. So your 50 cent measurement means that the user was part of $2500 worth of damage, triple that to $7500 no problem. At $2000 or so per song and a short list of the total songs she was sharing, Ms Thomas is getting off with a proverbial slap on the wrist.

Danny says:

It's still too high....

Other than trying to get as much money as possible out of her (or anyone) I really don’t see a reason why she is being ordered to pay a dime over what the album with any given song would cost in the store anyway.

At best they can only reasonalby prove that she downloaded each song to keep from buying the album.

Hell by this math I would even agree having her pay the album cost for each and every song even if they are multiple songs from the same album.

Trerro says:

Even if we accept the "lost sale" argument, which I personally don't...

24 songs, distributed to an average of maybe 10 people each, is 240 downloads. Even at a generously high $1/song, that’s $240 in damages, and even allowing that to be tripled for sake of punishment, that’s still under a grand.

Anything over a $1k judgment here is ridiculously excessive. While 50 times over that is certainly an improvement vs. 2000 times over, it’s still way, way, out of whack with anything resembling reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

This whole “but it was only 24 songs” is getting a bit weary. The number was somehwere in the neighborhood of about 1,700, but only 24 were specifically made a part of the lawsuit to keep it manageable. Had the plaintiffs really wanted to pile-it-on they could have very easily added many, if not most, of the other songs found on her computer (a task made difficult by the convenient replacement of her drive at the time she was approached by the plaintiffs).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

24 named in the suit, but about 1,700 were in play had the plaintiffs chosen to pursue claims for all instances of infringement.

Per 17 USC 504, the minimum statutory damages award under these circumstances is $750/song. Even at this minimum amount, had the plaintiffs moved forward with claims for all infringed works, the minimum amount the court could have awarded would have been just shy of $1.3M. Given that this would have been the statutorily prescribed minimum, the court could not have turned to remittitur to reduce that amount.

If anyone takes solace in what the court has done here and harbors even the hint of a notion that infringement is not so bad, they are sorely mistaken.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: mike is an idiot.

your analysis of remittitur is flat out wrong. the $750 per song only applies to the plaintiffs who pursued their claims because this was not a class action. if the judge wanted to, he could easily go down to $750 * 24 songs = $18k.

but mike is still a dumbass because of this statement: “The interesting part is from the labels who, like I suggested above, do want to just bury this story and have the case be over with — but might be worried about setting a precedent allowing a judge to lower a jury award.” mike doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about. remittiturs (where the judge lowers the jury award) happen all the time.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Remittitur

> but might be worried about setting a precedent allowing a judge
> to lower a jury award.

If that’s why they’re appealing, then they really need a few new lawyers– ones who actually know the law.

Any first year law student can tell you that any judge in any civil case has the statutory authority to lower a jury award. It’s called a remittitur, and since it’s already part of the codified law, there’s no precedent here to set. Even before it was codified, judges have been doing it since before the Revolutionary War.

Judges can also *add* to a jury award if they think the jury didn’t give the plaintiffs enough. That’s called an addittur.

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