Friday, October 05, 2007

Jury orders $200k payout in P2P trial

The woman who decided to face the RIAA in court over accusations of copyright infringement via peer to peer networks has lost her case. She has been ordered by a jury to pay $222000 for infringing the copyright in 24 songs. For the mathematicians amongst you that's roughly $9250 per song.

"The recording industry hopes $222,000 will be enough to dissuade music lovers from downloading songs from the Internet without paying for them. That's the amount a federal jury ordered a Minnesota woman to pay for sharing copyrighted music online.

"This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not OK," Richard Gabriel, the lead attorney for the music companies that sued the woman, said Thursday after the three-day civil trial in this city on the shore of Lake Superior."

On top of the damages she'll also be liable for the RIAA lawyers fees. The record companies are delighted and might even argue she got off lightly as potential statutory damages in the US range from $750 to $30000 per song,as far as I can recall. But there really ought to be a serious question of proportionality here. The jury clearly bought the entertainment industry rhetoric about sending a message but upwards of $0.5 million, one lawyers fees are included, for a couple of dozen songs? It's nuts.

Ed Felten has some thoughtful comments as ever.

"The industry had especially strong evidence that Thomas was the person who downloaded the songs in question. Thomas’s defense was that somebody else must have downloaded the songs. But the industry showed that the perpetrator used the same distinctive username that Thomas admitted to using on other services, and that the perpetrator downloaded songs by Thomas’s favorite performers. Based on press stories about the trial, the jury probably had an easy time concluding that Thomas downloaded the songs. (Remember that civil cases don’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, only that it was more likely than not that Thomas downloaded the songs illegally.)...

The most striking fact about the Thomas case is that the jury awarded damages of $9250 per song to faraway corporations.. That’s more than nine hundred times what the songs would have cost at retail, and the total of $222,000 is an astronomical amount to a person in Jammie Thomas’s circumstances. There is no way that Jammie Thomas caused $222,000 of harm to the record industry, so the jury’s purpose in awarding the damages has to be seen as punishment rather than compensation.

My guess is that the jury was turned off by Thomas’s implausible defense and her apparent refusal to take responsibility for her actions. Litigants disrespect the jury at their peril... Observers who hoped for jury nullification — that a jury would conclude that the law was unjust and would therefore refuse to find even an obvious violator liable — must be sorely disappointed. It sure looks like juries will find violators liable, and more significantly, that they can be convinced to sympathize with the industry against obvious violators."

No comments: