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Judge Lowers Jammie Thomas' Damages to $54,000

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-resolution-in-sight dept.

Music 390

An anonymous reader writes "Judge Michael Davis has slashed the amount Jammie Thomas-Rassett is said to owe Big Music from almost $2,000,000 to $54,000. 'The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music. Moreover, although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages.' The full decision (PDF) is also available."

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390 comments

My favorite part (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30863658)

Per NewYorkCountryLawyer [blogspot.com]:

Judge Davis also indicated that he found even the reduced amount to be "harsh" and that, were he -- rather than a jury -- deciding the appropriate measure of damages, the award would have been even lower than $54,000. But he felt that since the jury had determined the damages, it was his province to determine only the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award.

Re:My favorite part (4, Interesting)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863820)

I know it won't be as funny pointing out the irony, but it's his decision on what is the maximum amount reasonable so he goes on to say that he can't make the amount lower because it isn't his decision? How the hell did he drop it to $54,000 if it wasn't his decision?

Re:My favorite part (4, Insightful)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863856)

Maybe because there's some legal specification as to the min/max of statutory dmgs? As a judge he is allowed to move the slider but not change the endpoints, I'm guessing.

Re:My favorite part (5, Informative)

PunditGuy (1073446) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864014)

$750 minimum x treble damages for willful infringement x 24 violations = $54000.

Re:My favorite part (5, Funny)

Applekid (993327) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864154)

Treble damages? Were the shared songs THAT bad?

Re:My favorite part (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864348)

Trouble with trebles?

Re:My favorite part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864402)

Nice joke, but for the vocab-disinclined - From Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: treble
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin triplus — more at triple
Date: 14th century
1 a : having three parts or uses : threefold b : triple in number or amount

Re:My favorite part (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864460)

I'm pretty sure that the OP was talking about tripling the punishment because they subjected other people to terrible music, not having anything to do with the use of the word treble.

Re:My favorite part (3, Informative)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864342)

Well, he might have chosen to triple it, but treble damages are not part of the statute.

Willfulness merely raises the maximum amount that can be awarded per work infringed from $30,000 to $150,000. Nothing prevents a court from awarding the minimum of $750 per work infringed even for willful infringements.

Re:My favorite part (5, Informative)

EvanED (569694) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864456)

Well, he might have chosen to triple it, but treble damages are not part of the statute.

This is correct; the decision addresses this issue:

Of course, the Copyright Act contains no treble damages provision. The Courts remittitur is not an attempt to create such a provision. Rather, the Court has labored to fashion a reasonable limit on statutory damages awards against noncommercial individuals who illegally download and upload music such that the award of statutory damages does not veer into the realm of gross injustice. Finding a precise dollar amount that delineates the border between the jurys wide discretion to calculate its own number to address ThomasRassets willful violations, Plaintiffs farreaching, but nebulous damages, and the need to deter online piracy in general and the outrageousness of a $2 million verdict is a considerable task. The Court concludes that setting the limit at three times the minimum statutory damages amount in this case is the most reasoned solution.

Re:My favorite part (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30863942)

As I understand it (I'm not a lawyer):

His decision was that the amount awarded was in violation of the principles of remittitur. As a result, it was his duty to find the absolute maximum in damages which could be awarded based on the violations. In this case, he determined that sharing 24 songs could be worth, at most, $54,000 in damages ($2,250 per song).

He ALSO felt that, while that was the maximum in damages, he believed this case was not deserving of the maximum in damages. HOWEVER, he felt that while altering the damages awarded to be in line with remittitur were within his powers, he did not feel that lowering it further were, and thus let the judgement of the jury stand as much as possible.

It's still BS (1, Troll)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864054)

How the hell is a song worth $2250?

Re:It's still BS (3, Insightful)

Pulzar (81031) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864532)

How the hell is a song worth $2250?

Minimum is $750, and that is tripled in case of willful infringement, which is what jury decided was the case.

As he said in his ruling, you can't only look at the actual damages, since this fine needs to serve as a deterrent, too. If you are only going to pay the value of the songs you downloaded when you get caught, then there would be no deterrent to downloading songs for free.

Re:My favorite part (1)

Antiocheian (859870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864074)

It's that wooden hammer. If they strike it down hard enough, they can achieve anything they like.

Seriously though,

that hammer is meant to smite down the defendant when found guilty.

Re:My favorite part (3, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863932)

...it was his province to determine only the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award.

If that language was used in the official decision then that means that the maximum allowable fine per song would be set to $2,250 = $54,000/24 right? Is that how legal precedence is established?

It still seems quite high. I wonder if another case could appeal to get it lowered even further to something like, say, $5.00 per song. I mean, when you think about it, $54,000 could buy someone a 4 year education, a really nice car, could be used for a downpayment on a decent home, or, for the philanthropic, would be a very sizeable charity donation. That money that Jamie Thomas has to pay, now, could be used for some very important things that could help progress society (as in, employing a home builder or auto manufacturer, helping Jamie grow educationally to become a more productive member of society, etc.) Instead, it is going to line the pockets of some already very rich folk who are probably going to spend it on blow and hookers, or maybe, at best, a very overpriced car that contributes to little more than an ego.

Lame.

Re:My favorite part (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864500)

Is that how legal precedence is established?

Yes and no. This court isn't high enough that any precedent was set. If the RIAA appeals to a Circuit Court and the remittitur amount is upheld, it'll be precedent for that circuit but not others. (Circuit Courts do look at decisions by other Circuit Courts, but they are considered guidance, not binding.) If it's appealed to SCOTUS and upheld, it'll be precedent for the whole US.

(IANAL)

Outrageous! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30863662)

The terrorists have won. This is what happens when you elect a muslim president, people!

Alt Title: Judge Makes Damages Only Mostly Insane (4, Insightful)

viking099 (70446) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863666)

$54,000 is still a crazy amount all things considered, but hopefully this judgment can stand as a sort of benchmark for future ones, even if it's not setting a precedent.

Re:Alt Title: Judge Makes Damages Only Mostly Insa (1, Troll)

LarrySDonald (1172757) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863784)

Hear hear. Talk about magnet effect - $2M is harsh but so is $54k. $54 might be fair. Twice the market value of the stolen property and $6 extra punitive.

Re:Alt Title: Judge Makes Damages Only Mostly Insa (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863946)

The problem is that the statutory *minimum* for copyright infringement in this case would have been $18,000. So that was the lowest number the judge could come up with. Because of the strong arguments that the behavior was "willful" and the strong need for deterrence because of the low cost of infringement and high cost of enforcement pushed him into the "treble damages" routine, just tripling the minimum number and saying that is basically as high as you can justify for the purposes of deterrence.

Still, I think $18,000 is a number that already more than took into effect the need for deterrence and costs of enforcement, since it's already massively higher than any actual damages or lost revenues, which are in the several hundreds of dollars.

Re:Alt Title: Judge Makes Damages Only Mostly Insa (3, Insightful)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864354)

Still, I think $18,000 is a number that already more than took into effect the need for deterrence and costs of enforcement, since it's already massively higher than any actual damages or lost revenues, which are in the several hundreds of dollars.

I think the problem with the law is that there are two different things it is addressing. This case is about an individual who shared a handful of songs with a few people with no expectation of monetary gain. For that case, a few thousand dollars is a significant deterrent.

But there is also the case where someone decides to make a business out of selling illegally copied music. The statutory damages in the law are really meant to be a serious deterrent to this kind of business. Without being able to attach a really big number to each infringing activity, someone might decide that the risk of paying a few thousand dollars is offset by the big money you can make by selling music without having to pay any artists.

I think the law itself is reasonable, it just gets really ugly when it is applied to individuals. They probably need to expand the law to distinguish personal file sharing from commercial intent. That could result in reasonable penalties for infringement. It sounds like the judge was doing the best he could to provide justice while still following the law.

Some relation? (4, Informative)

Rix (54095) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863692)

The wholesale price of 24 songs is $16.80. $54,000 is over 3,000 times the maximum possible damages.

Re:Some relation? (3, Insightful)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863740)

I think you missed the "distributing" part.

learn to read? (5, Insightful)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864066)

I think you missed the part where distributing was never proved.

Re:learn to read? (4, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864224)

Perhaps, but I didn't miss the part where the judge explained (citing case law) that statutory damages are intended to be a replacement for unproven and potentially unprovable actual damages.

Re:Some relation? (2, Funny)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864182)

What if you could prove negative damages? Exposing more people to the music makes it more likely that people will buy merch and attend concerts in the future. Then the RIAA would have to pay HIM.

Re:Some relation? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864262)

What distribution? The plaintiff could not prove distribution - period - therefor it did not happen.

Re:Some relation? (3, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863768)

The wholesale price of 24 songs is $16.80. $54,000 is over 3,000 times the maximum possible damages.

What kind of punishment would I get for shoplifting a $16 CD? Isn't petty theft like a $500 fine and community service? This guy didn't even steal anything.

Re:Some relation? (0)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863798)

What kind of punishment would you get for shoplifting a $16 than giving copies away to around 100 people?

Incorrect analogy. (2, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863808)

It's not the downloading, it's the uploading.

The correct analogy would be:

What sort of punishment would you get is you printed off 3000 CDs of copy right protected music, and gave them away for free with out the permission of the copy right holders?

-Rick

Re:Re:Incorrect analogy. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30863974)

Where did you get 3,000 CDs? The facts of the case stipulate a mere 24 songs. A reasonable figure of damages per song would be $10, which would make the maximum possible damages only $2,640.

Wow, really, troll? (1, Informative)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864088)

I corrected his flawed analogy, how is that trolling? Anyone who is still under the misunderstanding that this is about DOWNLOADING songs needs to be corrected. This is about UPLOADING songs.

I strongly disagree with the heft of the fine, but not to the point that I am willing to pander incorrect information to people. Yes, the fine for UPLOADING songs in this case is very likely excessive. I fail to see how clarifying that mistake is a trolling act.

In response to the AC about where I came up with the number 3,000, the GGP posted this:

The wholesale price of 24 songs is $16.80. $54,000 is over 3,000 times the maximum possible damages.

So IF a person were to distribute 3000 CDs of protected content, the maximum possible damages would be $54,000. So IF the defendant UPLOADED 3,000 albums worth of music, the maximum possible damages would also be $54,000.

-Rick

Re:Re:Incorrect analogy. (2, Insightful)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864210)

No, assuming he had a share ratio of 100 per song, that number is a good ballpark figure.

Given the nature of the Internet, and how long the defendant was known to be sharing, it's perfectly reasonable to allege that the works were shared with over 100 people each.

Re:Re:Incorrect analogy. (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864226)

A mere 24 songs distributed over to unknown number of people (may be to 3000 people or more)

Re:Incorrect analogy. (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864102)

Did they ever actually prove the uploading? I'm not trolling here, I'm actually curious ... did they download a copy from her machine, or observe it from the ISP? I can see "intent to upload" otherwise ...

Re:Incorrect analogy. (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864130)

Ahh the joys of civil court. They don't have to prove that she uploaded the music, just that it is the most likely explanation.

-Rick

Re:Incorrect analogy. (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864266)

Uploading 3000 copies would take quite a while on a typical broadband connection. Long enough that it seems rather unlikely any defendant has yet done it.

Re:Incorrect analogy. (1)

Dalzhim (1588707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864510)

And then again, it's not because someone uploads to 100 different leeches that he has uploaded 100 copies. It's probably most like he's uploaded one single copy divided amongst 100 leeches.

A real "criminal uploader" that I'd expect the RIAA to go after wouldn't seed only 24 songs... He'd most likely have a few thousands...

Re:Some relation? (2, Insightful)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863870)

Saying he didn't steal anything is a bit much unless he actually had a legitimate copy of whatever songs they said he infringed. However, I would like to see them start to go after downloaders; it shouldn't be the responsibility of an uploader to make sure the downloader has a legitimate license for something.

I know fair use doesn't allow receiving a backup of something from another individual, but it should. If it did, though, what would the great big corporations do if they could only sue downloaders for only a couple hundred bucks? (technically they could charge them for criminal theft at that point I think)

Re:Some relation? (1, Insightful)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864002)

Saying he didn't steal anything is a bit much unless he actually had a legitimate copy of whatever songs they said he infringed.

Copyright infringement and theft are completely different, unrelated things.

Re:Some relation? (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863812)

Well, if 1000 people downloaded it (And 100% of them would have purchased it otherwise), the damage would be ~$17k. If 3k people downloaded it, damages would be == to actual losses. Now, assuming that a small fraction of users would have purchased it if they didn't download it (Let's for arguments sake say 1%), then 300k downloads would be needed to inflict around $50k of damages...

Do I believe this? No, but this is the kind of math that would be used. Of course, you'd need to justify not only how many people downloaded, but also the percentage of those that would have otherwise purchased the album. Since that's not trivial at best (And not possible at worst), they settle on gross estimations (not even educated guesses)...

Personally, $2k per song is still high, but a whole lot better than $200k... And perhaps that's what they want. Get the figure low enough that it's not worth fighting so people just give up and pay it... Sad, really...

Re:Some relation? (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864260)

You're just going to give up and pay their $20k (10-track album) extortion charge? I'm not exactly broke, but I don't have that kind of cash sitting around in my rainy day jar. Maybe at $200 a song (which, is memory serves, isn't too far from what they ask for in the "pay up and we won't sue" letter) that makes sense.

Re:Some relation? (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864278)

Better three thousand than sixty thousand times - but it's still way too much. Hopefully the greedy bastards at the RIAA will appeal this and get slashed even lower next time.

Quick! (2, Insightful)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863726)

Everyone get vaccinated, this outbreak of common sense might be contagious!
Penalties that can actually be paid? Preposterous! My God man, next thing you know they'll say gay marriage is acceptable! Harumph!

Re:Quick! (0, Flamebait)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864082)

Can actually be paid by whom? $54,000 is still hundreds of times higher than is reasonable by any stretch of the imagination, even assuming damages for distributing unlicensed content.

Re:Quick! (2, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864326)

Multiples of reasonable and resemblance to actual damages done are almost entirely unrelated. In this case both are pretty accurate. You could be the guy who uploads a screener of Avatar and could quite reasonably have done several million dollars in damages, but that's hardly payable. Conversely, they could track you down for seeding an album that NOBODY ever downloaded, and hit you for a much-more-payable three grand despite having done precisely $0 in damage.

That said, both are pretty accurate in this example.

More than fair! (1, Redundant)

mandark1967 (630856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863736)

Definitely fair for 24 songs. Especially considering the fact that the RIAA said she was guilty!

I mean, if they did have to prove actual damages and all that other stuff, it would have cost far more to pay off the people to inflate the numbers under penalty or perjury, so they would have been entitled to even more money she doesn't have, so $54k is a bargain in the long run.

Now she can sell body parts (her own, preferably) to pay them off. Maybe she can get buy with only part of her liver and 1 kidney?

Re:More than fair! (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863918)

54k for a kidney and part of the liver?
 
    Couple of questions does the liver grow back or do I need to cut back on drinking, and where can I sign up?

Sigh, more piracy... (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863742)

Doesn't P2Pnet realize that Elmo is copyrighted! And yet, there they are showing a boy with Elmo on his overalls! Doesn't anyone think of the content owners??? When will this madness end???

Re:Sigh, more piracy... (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864098)

That's a trademark issue, unless the image of the boy with Elmo was not under an open license. The image itself would be under a separate copyright than the trademark on elmo that could be applied.

Just another step down that road (0)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863752)

A company should never have to prove damages. That's a task that only citizens should have to undertake for daring to waste the court's time. But a company can 'make an example' of someone by suing them for two million without having to prove or even postulate at damages.

Re:Just another step down that road (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864544)

A company should never have to prove damages. That's a task that only citizens should have to undertake for daring to waste the court's time. But a company can 'make an example' of someone by suing them for two million without having to prove or even postulate at damages.

Right. Because a company would never have a court make an example out of them... let's say by making them pay $24 million for handing someone a cup of hot coffee that if that person were to later spill on themselves they might get a rather nasty burn. Nope, no company would ever face that sort of thing. Nor would they ever face a frivolous lawsuit from some interest group looking to block their activity, or perhaps from some class action lawyer looking to get a couple of million for himself and a coupon for $2 off for his class because the price of the stock went down this year. No, the courts could never be used in that way.

Tool.

3 - 5 years? (-1, Troll)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863774)

Its a ludicrous amount, but it you need to look at it this way:
1) It sets an example. Don't get caught
2) This guys life is not ruined. Depending on his salary and how much he wants to spend on living expenses, he can pay that off in a few years.

Re:3 - 5 years? (3, Informative)

Yold (473518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863848)

Well, "he" is a single mother of 4 who works w/ a Tribal Council, meaning she is probably paid a little better than a social worker. Considering the fact that you can buy a decent house in the boonies around Duluth for $60,000, I'd say that this will greatly cut into her kids' college fund.

RTFA

Re:3 - 5 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864032)

Kids go to college up in the Iron Range? I thought they had to know how to read and write and stuff to go to college.

Re:3 - 5 years? (2, Insightful)

plalonde2 (527372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863982)

Sure, her kids should suffer a lower lifestyle to please the RIAA and "deter" file sharing. Your country is fsck'd.

Re:3 - 5 years? (4, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864094)

Depending on his salary and how much he wants to spend on living expenses, he can pay that off in a few years.

And if he didn't have to pay it off, he could, you know, spend the money on something that enriches society, like, say, purchasing a piece of real estate and thus maybe helping someone retire, purchasing a LOT of music legally and thus, compensating the artists justly, purchasing some new gizmos and gadgets that help sales rates and thus, help companies like Apple and Motorola and Google and so on continue to produce new, good products. In other words, he could spend that $54,000 on living and that money would get distributed throughout society. Now, instead, it will filter into the check books of record execs and lawyers and be spent in the brothels of hell, thus bringing nearer the inevitable hell on Earth apocalypse....or on hookers and coke.

1) It sets an example. Don't get caught

To which I respond:

Come a day there won't be room for naughty men like us to slip about at all

-Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity.

They need to (1, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863776)

although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages

Plaintiffs should, without a doubt, be required to prove actual damages. If they can't, their case gets thrown out. That is how it should be. I don't think it would work this way with anything physical. If someone stole a CD from a music store, that cost $10, they cost $200 in labor, and $150 in court costs, they shouldn't have to pay anything more than $500 (assuming we are inflating the price for deterrence). If I said that I shouldn't have to prove what the CD costs and say that the CD is worth $10,000, the court should throw out the case or very, very, very much reduce the value because I didn't do my homework. The same thing should happen with imaginary property.

Re:They need to (2, Interesting)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863824)

Devil's advocate: What's the labor involved in tracking down P2P users? They use some pretty sophisticated tech to catch people these days--someone had to pay to develop it--and they hire agencies for the specific purpose of tracking violators and even poisoning torrents in some cases. The cost of enforcement is pretty high, so actual damages might have to include those.

Re:They need to (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863882)

Well, I wouldn't think that for one the RIAA would want to bring these agencies to the light of law, a lot of times they use illegal methods to take down torrents and track people. Would a physical store want to hire thieves to break into homes to re-steal the items and then sue for them?

Re:They need to (4, Insightful)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863844)

I have a restaurant. You run around town telling people we spit in each and every plate that goes out. I've lost business because of it. Are you saying I'd have to go and find each and every person that didn't come to my restaurant because of your lies? Even if I could find them all, what possible way would I have to convince them to testify for me?

Any simple solution to a complex problem is wrong.

Re:They need to (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863986)

You should have to prove that at least some people didn't come to your restaurant because of it and then start from there. For example, if you can find 3 people who no longer come and will testify, you can sue from there and then increase it a reasonable number based on their testimony. If you can't find anyone, and you don't have any proof, the court case should be thrown out. Otherwise I can say anything and accuse people of libel and slander. There needs to be actual, measurable harm. When you find 3 people and no more and the people say that other people know it, you can say that you lost 10 customers, you figure that every customer comes in about once every month and orders $5 of food, you only lost $300 in half a year. So you could sue for say, $500 with deterrence. If you have no proof, then everything is hearsay and it is not justice, it is tyranny by the court.

Re:They need to (3, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864218)

I assume you're proposing your idea of slander and damages, not trying to recite your current understanding of the law in this area.

IANAL, but a quick google turned up this interesting page about defamation and harm. Quoting (emphasis mine):

The Libel or Slander must Harm or Damage the Plaintiff

Where libel is concerned, damages are presumed and the plaintiff need not prove special harm. Special harm is harm to one's reputation that results in monetary losses. If the libelous matter requires proof of additional, or extrinsic, facts for one to understand its defamatory meaning or its reference to the plaintiff, it is called libel per quod, which does require proof of special harm.

Slander generally requires proof of special harm. If the defamatory statement amounts to slander per se, however, the plaintiff is not required to prove special harm; damage is presumed. Slander per se includes statements that the plaintiff engaged in criminal behavior or sexual misconduct or that the plaintiff has a communicable disease. Statements that adversely affect the plaintiff's trade or profession are also slander per se.

Read more at Suite101: The Law of Defamation: Libel or Slander and Causing Harm to Reputation http://law.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_law_of_defamation#ixzz0dNf06jQq [suite101.com]

So, in your precise scenario, spreading lies (verbally or published) that damage my business reputation are automatically presumed to cause damage. According to this Wikipedia page [wikipedia.org], all states of the United States except Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee consider "allegations or imputations injurious to another in their trade, business, or profession" to be defamatory per se.

Re:They need to (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864254)

If I knee you in the groin, your actual monetary damages are -zero-. If I kick hard enough, I may even save you some money that you'd otherwise have to spend supporting children...

Stealing? (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863782)

'The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music.

I take issue with the language used. If I download and then upload a song, that's copyright infringement. If I walk into WalMart and shoplift a CD, that's stealing. WalMart has been deprived of their property. In neither case has the record company been deprived of anything. Plus, WalMart owns the CD, Warner does NOT own the music. In the US, this "property" belongs to all of us; the "content creator" has a limited time monopoly on its publication, not ownership.

If I steal a CD and get caught I have a misdemeanor criminal charge and a few hundred dollar fine, but if I infringe copyright and get caught it costs $50k. This is better than before, but still very bad.

Re:Stealing? (0, Troll)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864076)

Stealing is a poor choice of words, but yours is a poor choice of analogy.

It'd be more accurate to compare it to stealing the CD from WalMart, setting up a rig of several CD writers and making many copies then standing outside WalMart giving those copies away. Suddenly the lost revenue isn't (cost of CD), it's (cost of CD multiplied by number of CDs you gave away). Of course nobody really knows how many you made or gave away so they work out how many it's physically possible for you to have made and given away and work on the back of that.

(There is the bijou issuette that a free CD will attract many more takers than a CD on the shelf at $12-15 ever will....)

Pedantic much? (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864312)

You don't think that a strict distinction between theft and infringement is just a tad pedantic?

Not when the penalties are so out of whack... (1)

jeko (179919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864408)

When the penalty for actual, physical, potential-to-cause-real-violence theft is three orders of magnitude smaller than point-and-click infringement, then no, it's a very important distinction.

The words "tart" and "molarity" can both be used to indicate degrees of acidity, but even though they can both mean essentially the same thing, there's an important difference.

Re:Not when the penalties are so out of whack... (1)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864520)

Ironically you're right, but not in the way you mean. If you're not a chemist "molarity" means nothing at all while "tart" is known to anyone who enjoys food. Likewise, "infringement" holds little meaning to someone not steeped in intellectual property law while theft is comprehensible even to a child.

When you want to explain something in a way that will make sense, it helps to use words the reader will understand. Nitpicking the precise fit of those words is the very definition of pedantry.

Re:Stealing? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864400)

I take issue with the language used. If I download and then upload a song, that's copyright infringement. If I walk into WalMart and shoplift a CD, that's stealing. WalMart has been deprived of their property. In neither case has the record company been deprived of anything.

The record company has been deprived of its right to distribute.

Instead of talking about Walmart and stealing CDs, consider if you copied a print by a famous artist and started selling it yourself. You haven't "stolen" from the artist, per se, but you are certainly infringing that artist's exclusive right to reproduce his/her work.

The simple version is that it isn't yours to give away, whether or not you profit from it.

Welp... (4, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863816)

...I think it is still a bit much, but it's a hell of a lot better than it was. I like that the judge acknowledged that he wasn't doing this because he sympathised with the defendant, but rather was disgusted with the punishment based on the crime. The reasons he gave for changing the amount are the way a judge SHOULD be.

It's a positive (5, Interesting)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863842)

Yes the amount is still absurd, but at least the principle that the statutory damages must bear a reasonable relationship to the actual damages has been invoked and vindicated. My blog post is here: Jammie Thomas verdict reduced from $1.92M to $54,000 [blogspot.com] and my Slasdhot submission is here [slashdot.org].

Re:It's a positive (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864010)

Until overturned on appeal.

No, actually, that's just my inner cynic talking. IANAL, so I don't know whether the pigopolists even have an appeal path. If they have one, I can't imagine them not using it, since allowing "the principle that the statutory damages must bear a reasonable relationship to the actual damages" to stand in precedent would seem to be quite undesirable to them. Proportionality and reason are definitely not among the weapons of the RIAAish Inquisition. Reasonable limits on damages kinda softens the deterrent effect of "We're gonna ruin you, and your children, and your children's children, to the seventh generation!"

Re:It's a positive (1)

cetialphav (246516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864508)

If they have one, I can't imagine them not using it

I don't know about that. I think there is logic in not pushing this issue. There is no way you can tell me that $54,000 is not a deterrent. In fact, I would be more scared of that than a $2 million judgement. With $2 million, there is no way I can pay and so I can start pursuing bankruptcy to get this off my back. But $54,000 is payable over several years by most people and so it would be hard to get out of that.

The bottom line is that they now have a judgement with a tough penalty that can stick. Also keep in mind that they are currently not pursuing any new infringement cases because it is apparently bad for business to sue the hell out of your customers.

Actual damages are 35 cents per work (5, Informative)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863900)

The maximum actual damages is ~35 cents per infringed work, since the wholesale price is ~70 cents and the expenses are around ~35 cents. Under constitutional principles, the statutory damages awarded should not have exceeded $1.40 per infringed work, or a total of $33.60. Even the reduced award is 6428 times the actual damages, a grossly excessive amount.

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (3, Insightful)

Nukenbar (215420) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864086)

To say that that a copyright holder could only recover his actual damages would render the law meaningless. That is why the law allows for statutory damages "in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court
considers just." Three times the minimum does not seem excessive as a matter of law to me.

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864112)

The judge seemed to indicate he thought $54,000 was still high, how did he settle on that number?

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (2, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864160)

That would be the actual damages resulting from her not buying the music herself. However, her uploading did allow many others to cause the plaintiffs the same damages. We just don't know how many.

Personally I'd probably have aimed more at $10k than $50k, but I don't think that it is unreasonable for the court to take a position that punishes people for violating the intent of a law. Otherwise, what point is there in having the law?

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864214)

The problem is that the damages were largely not from downloading a copyrighted work, but for uploading.

A physical analogy would be copying a CD you acquired by some means and then distributing the copies to random people. The damages are not from you stealing/borrowing/buying the CD, but from redistributing it to however many people. That said, $54,000 is still unreasonable.

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (1)

Saib0t (204692) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864332)

The maximum actual damages is ~35 cents per infringed work, since the wholesale price is ~70 cents and the expenses are around ~35 cents. Under constitutional principles, the statutory damages awarded should not have exceeded $1.40 per infringed work, or a total of $33.60. Even the reduced award is 6428 times the actual damages, a grossly excessive amount.

What about the distribution part? I don't agree with the principle that unwillingly distributing (as is the case with P2P technologies) should be grounds for extra payment since it wasn't the person's objective, but since the money is for obtaining AND distributing, there should be something there as well, don't you think? Is there some kind of constitutional limit to that as well?

As a side note, where I live (belgium) we now have a "tax" on hard drives, recordable CDs/DVDs and all forms of storage to pay for the piracy going on, no matter what that storage device is going to be used for :-/
The upside is that I now have no moral issue whatsoever with downloading other's copyrighted works to my heart's content. I pay for it, I'm going to use it.

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (2, Informative)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864482)

What about the distribution part?

There was no evidence of her acting as a distributor. That would have required proof that she
-disseminated copies
-to the public
-by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by a rental, lease or lending. There was no proof of any of those.

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864398)

The maximum actual damages is ~35 cents per infringed work, since the wholesale price is ~70 cents and the expenses are around ~35 cents. Under constitutional principles, the statutory damages awarded should not have exceeded $1.40 per infringed work, or a total of $33.60. Even the reduced award is 6428 times the actual damages, a grossly excessive amount.

Is that the case even if distribution is involved?

Re:Actual damages are 35 cents per work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864530)

Care to cite the part of the constitution that limits damages in this case?

defusing the situation? (2, Interesting)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863912)

Ok, call me paranoid, but could this be an attempt to defuse the situation? $2M damages for 2 CDs worth of songs is outrageous enough to get the attention of even the most complacent. $54K, although a heavy burden, is significantly less so and (seems to me) much less likely to cause a general backlash.

Re:defusing the situation? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864444)

You're paranoid. Most people in the US don't care about this case.

You're basically accusing the record companies of controlling the actions of this judge somehow. To make such an accusation, which is serious, you ought to have some pretty good evidence.

Re:defusing the situation? (1)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864552)

>$2M damages for 2 CDs worth of songs is outrageous enough to get the attention of even the most complacent.

And then what? What are "even the most complacent" going to do? Stop listening to music? Demand change? Fat chance.

Question (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30863930)

Can the RIAA appeal this verdict and demand more money? NewYorkCountryLawyer, are you listening? $54,000 is still an unreasonable amount for downloading a few songs (my entire 80GByte MP3 collection only cost about $10,000). If you accept the RIAA's contention that each of these songs could be passed on to other people, who could in turn pass them on to more people, it may sound reasonable. However, it that is the case, then shouldn't the commercial price of a song on iTunes be about $2000?

Seriously People! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864304)

WTF, why don't people just buy their music?? Come on, you mean to tell me you can't pay 99 cents or less for a song?

Way to much still.. (0, Troll)

Kaffien (635219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30864370)

This is just silly .... reflecting damages. You steal it, do not distribute it. Therefore you have 'stolen' two cd's worth and should be fined a maximum of 25 dollars per 'CD'. His fine should not exceed $50. These guys are fishing with dynamite.

Infinite Reproducibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30864392)

At this point, I'd like to introduce the concept of "infinite reproducibility"(tm).

Infinite reproducibility exists on freely distributable information networks. I claim that the value of all information drops to zero, since it is easily reproduced and distributed beyond the means that modern markets are framed around. Supply and demand become non-physical variables in the monetary equations of distribution, yet remain intact for supply and demand side holding. Only the distribution market has changed.

Since the computers, and the Internet allow information to be reproduced rapidly, in quantity, and over vast distances, the expectation of any piece of information, Copyrighted, Trademarked, Secret, or other, to hold up to past scrutinies of reproducibility, becomes null. The threshold for control on a freely distributable information network, will not move away from that which its contributors allow. Those who have a vested monetary interest in information, need to understand that it is in their interest to not punish the very people they wish to sell that information too. No amount of legislation, except destruction of the very network itself, will change this fact.

/yes, grammar be damned

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