Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Court Slashes Judgment Against Internet Song Sharer

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...Image via CrunchBase
Chief Judge Michael Davis of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota has reduced by 97 percent the $1.92 million verdict obtained by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in June 2009, against a Minnesota woman in the first trial of a P2P infringement case.

In Capitol Records, Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records, LLC, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records, Inc., and UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Jammie Thomas-Rasset (Case No. 0:06cv01497-MJD-RLE), Judge Davis deemed "monstrous" the $80,000 per song Thomas-Rasset was assessed for illegally downloading 24 songs, and remitted the sum to $2,250 per tune for a total judgment of $54,000.

Thomas-Rasset was charged with pirating nearly 2,000 tunes, but the RIAA sought damages only for 24 tracks, including those by artists such as Gloria Estefan, Green Day, Def Leppard and Aerosmith. Judge Davis amended the judgment but denied the defendant's motion for a new trial. Judge Davis said that notwithstanding the deterrent effect of a mammoth judgment, "statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages." Under U.S. Copyright law [17 U.S. C. sec.504(c)], statutory damages can range from $750 to $30,000 per illegally downloaded song, which can jump to $150,000 per transgression if deemed "willful."

The RIAA has seven days from Judge Davis' decision to accept the amended verdict or to seek a new trial to set damages. Judge Davis said the amended judgment assessed the defendant remains "significant and harsh."

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