More Judges Realizing That Statutory Damages In Copyright Suits Out Of Line

from the bringing-some-sanity-back dept

The heart of Charles Nessons' case against the RIAA is that the copyright law cited to attack file-sharers is unconstitutional due to the ridiculous statutory fines put on copyright infringement. The original fines were really meant for commercial copyright counterfeiters -- and the law was never intended to be used against random internet users sharing some songs off of their computer with no profit motive at all. The law also didn't anticipate songs being sold for less than $1. So, with statutory fines for each act of infringement sitting between $750 and $150,000, there are some big problems. Luckily, it appears some judges are beginning to agree with the idea that these fines are ridiculous. Ray Beckerman highlights a recent ruling by District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in the Southern District of New York, where Schendlin stated:
"At the end of the day, 'statutory damages should bear some relation to actual damages suffered'... and 'cannot be divorced entirely from economic reality'"
Beckerman notes that a more reasonable standard would be somewhere between zero and nine times the actual damages -- with the lost profit on a single download being approximately $0.35 -- meaning damages per song should range from $0 to $3.15 per song file. Somehow, I'm guessing the RIAA will disagree.
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Filed Under: copyright, damages, penalties


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  1. identicon
    Cygnus, 1 Dec 2008 @ 5:53pm

    Re:

    Only a very few federal judges have the cojones to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional except in the most obvious of circumstances, so it would be unusual to see a decision in the near term challenging its constitutionality.
    Seeing as how the granting of patent and copyright rights is a power specifically granted to Congress by the Constitution (see Article I, Section 8) a court's reticence to speak against Congress in that forum might be somewhat justified. IMHO.

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