RIAA/Capitol vs. Jammie Thomas-Rasset: $2 mil. P2P damages!

The RIAA and Capitol Records have been awarded $1.92 million damages from Jammie Thomas-Rasset. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers marvel at how 24 songs can cost $80,000 each.

By Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher, who has selected these tidbits for your enjoyment. Not to mention Victoria Silvstedt: My Im-Perfect Life...

First, Nate "IANAL" Anderson shows us the money:

RIAA/Capitol vs. Thomas-Rasset: $1.92 m P2P damages!
Jammie Thomas-Rasset's federal retrial concluded today as a jury found her liable for willful copyright infringement, awarding the record labels nearly $2 million in damages. ... As the dollar amount was read in court, Thomas-Rasset gasped and her eyes widened.

Kiwi Camara, Thomas-Rasset's lead attorney, spoke briefly after the trial. He told reporters that ... he had been convinced that any liability finding would have been for the minimum amount of $750 per song. ... [But] the jury found Thomas-Rasset's conduct to be willful, which means that statutory damages under the Copyright Act can range ... up to $150,000 [per song]. In his closing statement, defense lawyer Joe Sibley made clear that even the minimum award would run $18,000 ... an amount that he said was unfair and crippling.

John Oates wonders how this can be, without evidence:

Thomas-Rasset, a mum of four from Minnesota, was found guilty of copyright infringement in respect of 24 songs downloaded from, and made available to, the Kazaa file sharing network. There was no evidence that anyone but the prosecution had actually downloaded the songs.
Her defence argued that the RIAA had failed to prove she had actually shared music with anyone - only that her computer contained file sharing software. The RIAA hired MediaSentry which traced files to her IP address and downloaded songs from her shared directory. She used the nickname 'tereastarr' which was also her MySpace log-in.

Ernesto Van Der Sar boggles:

Thomas-Rasset, like many others, couldn’t believe her ears when the court read out the verdict, and later said that it was “kind of ridiculous”.
Unlike most people, Thomas-Rasset never opted to settle with the RIAA, determining that she had the law on her side. Unfortunately for her the jury in this landmark case ruled she did not. ... The average settlement in related RIAA cases is around $3000, which is peanuts considering this recent verdict. In this light many people might be inclined to settle with the RIAA even when they don’t even own a computer.

Solandri puts it into perspective:

Look at the RIAA's 2001 marketing stats (last year I could find figures for new releases). On average each new CD title brought in about $500,000 in revenue. If you figure conservatively 8 songs per CD, that works out to $62,500 per song.

In other words, the jury awarded more averages damages per song than if she'd prevented all copies of the song from ever being sold.

Michael Cook, too:

I was hoping the damages would be overturned as bankruptingly high and unconstitutional. I was hoping we'd get a precedent of vague reasonableness in this kind of thing. Nope.
[But] I think it's fairly clear she was guilty. There was some doubt, but I'm not surprised she was found guilty at all.

But squiggleslash has another way to look at it:

Thomas was caught with her pants down, she's clearly guilty, and she did everything she could to antagonize the system. ... She played games by lying about the circumstances behind her missing hard disk drive. She, nonetheless, continued to protest her innocence despite overwhelming evidence she wasn't. ... She was caught being blatantly dishonest. The jury is almost certainly looking at this seeing someone try to mislead them, who's wasted their time with a pointless retrial over something she's clearly guilty of.
Put aside your views on copyright law and the "evil" the RIAA, was anything other than a pissed jury increasing the damages award ever likely to be the outcome of this case?

So what's your take?
Get involved: leave a comment.

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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 on Twitter or FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email.

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