Court Will Examine The Constitutionality Of RIAA Fines

from the a-big-loss-for-the-RIAA dept

When the RIAA sues people for unauthorized uploading of songs, they usually put a price between $750-per-song to $30,000-per-song in losses. Many have argued that this seems rather excessive -- especially considering how much the songs are actually sold for. A year and a half ago, there was a scholarly paper that examined whether the RIAA's excessive loss claims were unconstitutionally excessive. With that in mind, it wasn't that surprising earlier this year to see one defendant in an RIAA suit question the constitutionality of the $750 number that was trotted out in her case. At the time, we stated that the reasoning used to back this up seemed much weaker than the reasoning in the law review article, but as lawyer Ray Beckerman (who is involved in the case) explained, the filing was limited in length and only needed to serve a specific purpose. It also looks like they were later able to submit either the law review article we mentioned, or other supporting documents. No matter what happened, the judge has now ruled that it is a perfectly legitimate question, and will be included as part of the case. The judge tossed out all of the RIAA's objections, noting that the defendant actually backed up their claim with case law and law review articles. The RIAA, on the other hand, could offer no similar case law to explain why the constitutionality of the fines couldn't be questioned. Of course, who knows how the case will turn out, but should the RIAA lose, it would be pretty damaging for them. They use the threat of the $750/song (or higher) fines as a way to bully people into just settling, rather than fighting -- even if they know they're innocent.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2006 @ 10:55pm

    When I download stuff I use the Azureus bittorrent client and it shows a "Share Ratio" basically how much I have uploded compared to what I have downloaded. It is easy therefore to see how many times I have infringed and I generally stop sharing it when it gets to around 2 (ie uploded 2* what I downloaded) so they could easily prove how much I had uploaded from those files but not prove I had ever uploaded other files unless they were the ones downloading them in which case I believe it would be entrapment.

    So at least if they sue anyone using Azureus it's trivial to find out how much things were uploaded, not sure if there are similar features in other filesharing programs.

    By the way I almost never download music as I didn't even listen to any before a friend gave me some mp3's (that piracy obviously cost the industry a lot!!!) of a band that he liked, after which I bought 2 of their albums (after having allready downloaded the songs in them). In this case filesharing has made the industry some money without the cost of advertising to reach me. (I have never heard of the band anywhere by accident, I have only found anything about it when I specifically searched for it). I have also given this music to friends, some of whome have bought several more of the band's albums, again without anyone having to pay advertising fees.

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