Do The Statutory Damages Rates For Copyright Infringement Violate The Eighth Amendment?

from the questions,-questions dept

While we often discuss the rather large conflict between the First Amendment and copyright law in the US, Stephan Kinsella is also wondering if the current statutory damages rates in copyright also violate the Eight Amendment and its prohibition on "excessive fines." I somewhat wonder if that issue will come up in the Jammie Thomas appeal, which will focus heavily on whether or not an award within the statutory damages rates was too high, but I believe the focus there will be more on the Fourteenth Amendment, and whether or not it was a violation of due process. In fact, it seems like most of the Constitutional discussions on statutory rates focuses on the Fourteenth Amendment, rather than the Eighth. I'm certainly not a Constitutional scholar (and would love for legal scholars to chime in here), but I believe this is because the courts historically treat these two amendments as related, and effectively argue that the 8th Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment is applied via the 14th Amendment on due process when it involves state laws. So I'm not entirely clear why it's also being used on a federal copyright issue -- but I'm sure someone out there will help explain it to us in the comments shortly!

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Sep 2011 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Punitive v. Non-Punitive Damages

    "Further, let's not forget that, even if you assign a very small amount of money as they value of a single copy (even $1), it is clear that a single copy online can be the starting point for millions of additional copies. There is seemingly a reckless disregard for the implications of sharing the file online."

    So what, one should only be responsible for what one did not others.

    "It should also be considered that the statutory "rates" in this law are wide and allow the judges plenty of latitude. This isn't a situation where the minimum is insanely high, rather it is reasonable in line with a severe speeding ticket or even a fine for parking in a handicap zone in some cities. It would be incredibly hard to say that, given the spread of a single file (which has been shown before), that there is no some damage done."

    I never ever saw a speeding ticket that surpassed the yearly earnings of someone did you see that happen ever?

    "Further, let's be clear here. We are talking a civil case, not a direct fine. Cruel and unusual punishment normally would apply to fines by the state. This isn't the case here."

    That fact that it is possible is just evidence of the absurd that copyright law has become and the urgent need to reform it, by law or by force.

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