RIAA Defends $1.5 Million Thomas File-Sharing Verdict

RIAA Defends $1.5 Million Thomas File-Sharing Verdict

RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth defended the verdict as necessary to address her “blatant disrespect for artists, the legal system, and the law,” but doesn’t acknowledge that the amount is still so high – $1.5 mln – that the only message it’s sending is that the RIAA is completely removed from reality.

This October will mark four years since Jammie Thomas became the first person ever to be convicted for illegal file-sharing in the US, and the case is still likely to last for another four years or more as it winds it way up to the Supreme Court.

From the start the trial was plagued by glaring the fact that the RIAA couldn’t prove that Thomas actually illegally distributed the 24 copyrighted songs in question, only that it was possible to do so, but it didn’t seem to matter. A jury found Thomas liable for wilful copyright infringement and fined her $220,000.

On appeal the amount was bumped up to a staggering $1.92 mln. Judge Michael J. Davis of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota later lowered damages to $2,250 per song — three times the statutory minimum for a total of $54,000, but last November a jury reversed that amount and set the fine at $1.5 mln.

In reducing the $1.92 mln judgment Judge Davis complained that “statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages,” an important detail worth considering in more detail. For by the RIAA’s own admission the fines are meant to warn others that file-sharing is illegal.

The problem is that copyright law was largely intended to redress a “copyright owner’s actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer.” She was a noncommercial infringer, and damages need to reflect the harm she allegedly caused and not serve a message intended for others.

In a response to a recent article discussing the Thomas trial, RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth defended the verdict as necessary to address her “blatant disrespect for artists, the legal system, and the law.”

Sadly though, Duckworth claims that Thomas is an “egregious illegal downloader” who shared copyrighted music with “millions of anonymous strangers.” The RIAA doesn’t know how many people she shared the song with. The only confirmed person who did is the anti-P2P representative it authorized to gather the evidence against her.

Duckworth says that Thomas mocked the verdict against her, that she “outright laughed at the jury’s latest judgment against her and smiled her way out of the courtroom,” but how else could one response to such an outlandish judgment? For her, as is the case with so many others, it’s an outlandish figure removed from reality, especially considering that the RIAA has given up on its mass campaign of suing illegal file-sharers.

Surely by now the trial, which will likely end up lasting 8 years or more, has cost far more than whatever damages it believes she may have caused, and that I know Duckworth can’t defend.

Stay tuned.

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