RIAA $1.92 mil. award "not excessive" sez Obama's DoJ

The Department of Justice has ruled that the RIAA's $1,920,000 P2P copyright damages against Jammie Thomas-Rasset are OK, and it's perfectly constitutional to award $80,000 per MP3 song. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers get on their high-horses, wondering which planet the Obama administration is on.

By Richi Jennings. August 17, 2009.

Your humble blogwatcher has selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention more old computer ads...

David Kravets paints a picture:

The Obama administration told a federal judge Friday the $1.92 million jury verdict against a Minnesota woman for sharing 24 music tracks on Kazaa was constitutionally sound. ... After the June verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset, defense attorneys urged U.S. District Judge Michael Davis to set it aside or reduce dramatically the $80,000-per-song award, arguing it was “excessive, shocking and monstrous.”


It is not unusual for the government to weigh into a case in which the constitutionality of the law is at issue. The Obama administration, and the Bush administration have weighed in on lawsuits in which the Copyright Act was under the microscope — always in support of the law. ... But Friday’s filing was the first time the government announced that an eye-popping $80,000 per track in damages was not excessive.

Mike Masnick is "stunned":

The reasoning is quite troubling and appears to include some serious revisionist history. ... The brief claims the awards are perfectly constitutional. ... Really? It seems that an awful lot of people find the idea of being forced to hand over $80,000 per song without any evidence ... is severe ... oppressive ... disproportionate ... obviously unreasonable.


Shouldn't the plaintiffs been required to show that these songs were actually shared? ... The real original purpose of statutory rates had nothing to do with punishing personal, non-commercial use, but were very much about dealing with commercial harm.

Ray Beckerman states his opinion:

The US Department of Justice (a) continues to debase itself by misstating the law in its unseemly haste to provide cover for the RIAA, and (b) sinks to a new level of debasement by arguing that an award of 228,000 times the actual damages satisfies due process standards. Its awareness of the frivolousness of its constitutional argument is betrayed by its urging the Judge to reach the same result.


The RIAA's brief is another in the long line of frivolous briefs they have filed, arguing that the size of the verdict can be measured against all of the damages the plaintiffs have suffered from all of the copyright infringements since time immemorial, and wallows in speculation -- unsupported by any actual evidence.

Ben Jones trumpets the elephant in the room:

Who can forget then MPAA president Jack Valenti calling the VCR the ‘Boston Strangler’ of the film companies. A few short years later that same Boston Strangler was providing those film companies with the majority of their income. The same thing happens time and time again, player pianos, radio, cable TV, the VCR, and now computers and the Internet.

  Like Chicken little, the sky didn’t fall down the last few times, and is unlikely to now for those companies, if, as before, they adapt and embrace the new technologies. Else they’ll go the way of the big train companies when 40-ton trucks became common, or saddlers and livery stables when the car was made affordable; an anachronism of old technology.

Legal-eagle cpt kangarooski is fed up of people calling it "stealing":

No, a copyright is the exclusive right. If Alice took the right from Bob, it would mean that Alice could use the law to prohibit Bob from doing various things with the work. It is obvious, though, that if Alice unlawfully makes a copy of a sound recording Bob has the copyright to, that Bob can still do as he pleases with the sound recording, license it to others, etc.

  So the right isn't stolen. Rather, the right is infringed upon, rather like if Alice trespassed onto Bob's land (which violates Bob's right to exclude others, but doesn't impact ownership). ... The desire for accuracy when describing these issues is probably why the law itself refers to it as infringement, and not as theft, and why attempts to use anti-larceny statutes against copyright infringers have fallen flat at the highest levels.

And hairyfeet is incensed:

The problem is this: The USA copyright system was a contract nothing more. In return for a limited copyright We, The People got a richer public domain. Only now the contract has been completely broken thanks to treasonous bribery. ... Err I mean campaign contributions of multinational corporations.


The system is completely broken ... you should have zero support for this corrupted, perverted, disgusting use of bribes and political favors we now call the US copyright system. Want proof it is broken? One sentence: Steamboat Willie is still under copyright! The man has been worm food ... for nearly a half century and one of his first works, made when airplanes were cloth and wood and antibiotics were just a dream in a doctor's eye, is still under copyright!!!

So what's your take?

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

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