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Supreme Court May Tune In To Music Download Case

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the from-on-high dept.

The Courts 339

droopus writes "The US Supreme Court is weighing into the first RIAA file-sharing case to reach its docket, requesting that the music labels' litigation arm respond to a case testing the so-called 'innocent infringer' defense to copyright infringement. The case pending before the justices concerns a federal appeals court's February decision ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 — $750 a track — for file-sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader. The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400 — or $200 per song. That's an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright act. Harper is among the estimated 20,000 individuals the RIAA has sued for file-sharing music. The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying."

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Look (3, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33665416)

We all know the girl was a bit stupid ("I didn't know it was illegal"? Seriously? That's your defense?) What should be focused on is the judgement...$750 per track? What's bad is that's on the low-end compared to some of their other lawsuits :/

Re:Look (3, Informative)

mark72005 (1233572) | about 4 years ago | (#33665494)

I think it's intended to be punitive.

Re:Look (5, Insightful)

hcmtnbiker (925661) | about 4 years ago | (#33665710)

And just out of curiosity can someone tell me why punitive damages should be awarded to the plaintiff? Why should someone make more money in a court of law then they otherwise would. I mean real damages I'm ok with, they're real. Punitive damages though are just some arbitrary number assigned to case. The plaintiffn has no right to that money, it doesn't belong to them, so why should they be awarded it.

Re:Look (3, Interesting)

Surt (22457) | about 4 years ago | (#33665852)

Who else can you award it to? The state? So that the state would then have an interest in finding for one side?

Re:Look (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | about 4 years ago | (#33665940)

Public cash burning?

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666236)

Burning cash is equivalent to giving it to the state. The only reason countries don't print unlimited cash for themselves is because it causes inflation; if you burn cash they can print themselves an equal amount with no negative consequences.

Re:Look (2, Interesting)

characterZer0 (138196) | about 4 years ago | (#33665948)

Burn the money. Then it increases the value of the dollar and helps everyone.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666032)

Please take macroeconomics. That's what "giving it to the state" means.

Re:Look (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#33665996)

Where do parking tickets go?

Re:Look (1, Funny)

Surt (22457) | about 4 years ago | (#33666144)

To the city, typically. But cities have a legitimate interest in parking control.

Re:Look (5, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#33666326)

True, but the government does have a legitimate interest in copyright control as well. Or else we wouldn't have copyright laws in the first place, ostensibly. And supposedly we have protections in place to prevent punitive traffic fines from becoming cash cows for cities.

Punitive fines are just that: a form of punishment to deter rules violations. When you go to jail for 2 years for breaking into an Ikea, you don't go to Ikea jail where they make you build crappy Swedish furniture for their profits. If you shoplift from Ikea, you're hit with a fine that goes to the state, not Ikea. Why is it, then, that if you shoplift from the RIAA, you're hit with a massive punitive fine that goes straight to the RIAA?

Re:Look (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 4 years ago | (#33666266)

Where are you illegally parking?

Most parking spaces that I park in are public. I'm not sure about private parking violations/where that money goes, nor who polices them..

Re:Look (2, Insightful)

muindaur (925372) | about 4 years ago | (#33665986)

I agree the sum awarded is excessive. If she appealed that in the Supreme Court she can get it reduced as the Constitution does place a 'reasonable amount' on damages and fines.

The case of McDonalds v. the Coffee in Lap Lady for example.

McDs appealed the million plus dollar ruling and had it reduced to $300,000. The Supreme Court decided it was excessive to award over a million for her injuries.

From a Business Law standpoint my professor taught me this. Check to see IF they can pay the fine AND then sue. It's not worth the legal expense if you can't get back the legal costs. There are even judges that will give no award if the defendant has no money.

I'm not a lawyer, just studying to be an Accountant, but it makes sense.

It doesn't matter if that is the fine imposed by the law either. The Supreme Court can rule that in the case of home file sharers(not considered in the original law) there are exceptions if they are not generating money from it: since the original law was to fine the people making and selling bootlegs.

Re:Look (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666134)

The case of McDonalds v. the Coffee in Lap Lady for example.McDs appealed the million plus dollar ruling and had it reduced to $300,000. The Supreme Court decided it was excessive to award over a million for her injuries.

No they did not. It was the trial judge who reduced the punitive damages (from 2.7 million dollars to 480,000), and while McDonalds did appeal, as did Liebeck, they eventually settled out of court anyway.

I hope your professor didn't teach you the facts of this case, because he got it wrong. Also...the jury in the case decided their punitive damages based on 2 days worth of McDonalds coffee sales. Ironic, no?

Re:Look (1)

mark72005 (1233572) | about 4 years ago | (#33665988)

Tort reform as a movement (in part) wants to address the approach of the legal system to punitive damages.

This however is not a punitive damage award, but a statutory damage. "a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just."

So the judge did give her the minimum penalty per offense.

Re:Look (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | about 4 years ago | (#33666006)

If you must have imaginary property, you must also have imaginary damages. I'm actually not kidding, that's what statutory damages are.

Re:Look (4, Interesting)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 4 years ago | (#33666076)

I'm more concerned about the fact that the suit is against someone who was a minor at the time of the incident. It seems to me that the guardian (parents) should be responsible in a civil case, and a criminal case (which this isn't) should have taken place in a juvenile court (speedily - you know, all that 6th Amendment stuff).

Re:Look (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666408)

Let's say I create some software and release it under the GPL. Let's say you modify it and distribute it; how can I prove real damages?

I'll put it another way, let's say your a company selling a song. If you buy it, then you our out $x. If you download, and I take you to court, and I win, then your out $x. Seems like downloading it is the way to go.

Re:Look (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 4 years ago | (#33666362)

Punitive damages are still supposed to be relative to the crime. The law in this case was designed to kill pirate corporations, not to be used against individuals engaging in very light infringement. The law is out of scale with the reality of what is occurring and the 'damage' that is being done. 1

Re:Look (5, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33665526)

That's how the innocent infringement defense works. Since you weren't aware you shouldn't be liable to the same extent. The other options are no leniency or letting a person completely off the hook. I'm not sure what the right amount would be, but it's much more reasonable than the $750 minimum.

$200 is definitely a deterrent, not sure that it's a reasonable amount, but it's much more in the realm of reasonable. Especially given that she'll likely have to pay court costs.

The defense wouldn't exist if it was that cut and dry. It's really more a matter of whether or not it applies in this case.

Re:Look (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 4 years ago | (#33665904)

I would think reasonable would be triple damages, so $3 per song sounds about right. Sure that is not a whole lot, but 200x or 750x damages is even crazier. Not the courts fault that their property is so cheap.

Re:Look (1)

Seumas (6865) | about 4 years ago | (#33666026)

Since when does ignorance of the law excuse you from it? Also, when was it determined that this was absolutely and irrefutably illegal (and it's certainly not _criminal), since it's a civil issue).

Re:Look (4, Interesting)

twidarkling (1537077) | about 4 years ago | (#33666386)

Since when does ignorance of the law excuse you from it?

Copyright is a contract between a copyright holder and the public, ignorance of a contract DOES excuse you from it, but only to a certain degree. That's why it's lessened penalties under the law, rather than a gigantic civil award. It's the court's way of saying "Look, you fucked up. Realistically, you should have done some research or something to figure out what you were doing was wrong. We can't let you off completely, since you did do something against the law, but we're not going to hang you for it. Consider this your warning and don't do it again." It's like a police officer pulling you over because your tail light is burnt out, and instead of giving you a ticket straight off, gives you the ability to go get it fixed promptly to avoid the fine. Yeah, you fucked up, you broke a law, and you should have noticed your tail light was out, but rather than be a dick, they want the behaviour corrected.

Also, when was it determined that this was absolutely and irrefutably illegal (and it's certainly not _criminal), since it's a civil issue).

Eh, under most jurisdictions, copyrights etc. are backed by force of law, which means it is actually illegal, rather than purely civil breach, but yeah, the actual, moral criminality of it? Not really. But legality and criminality are often divorced from each other.

Re:Look (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#33666192)

$200 is definitely a deterrent, and sounds completely reasonable to be paying in a small city court somewhere.

She's facing about 5k dollars deterrent for sharing 3 CD's. You'd have to shoplift an entire pallette of CD's off of the back of a truck to get that much of a fine. And that's *reduced* below the legal minimum.

Re:Look (5, Interesting)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 4 years ago | (#33665566)

We all know the girl was a bit stupid ("I didn't know it was illegal"? Seriously? That's your defense?) What should be focused on is the judgement...$750 per track? What's bad is that's on the low-end compared to some of their other lawsuits :/

I'll give you another lawsuit: Apple Inc. vs. Psystar. Psystar was found guilty of making about 750 illegal copies of MacOS X and was ordered to pay $30,000 for copyright infringement. That is just $40 for each copy of software that retailed for $129. (There was a small matter of DMCA violation as well, but that wouldn't be the case here). And you think $750 for a copy of a $0.99 song is anywhere near reasonable?

There was a recent case where the judge overruled the jury on the grounds that anything over $2,250 is so extraordinarily wrong that the judge cannot possibly allow it and has a duty to overrule the jury. That doesn't mean that $2,250 would be right, it means that it is not so extraordinarily wrong that the judge is forced to overrule it, he usually has to let decisions of the jury stand even if he disagrees with them. Unless they are so unworldly bad that they cannot be allowed.

Re:Look (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665726)

How many copies of songs was the girl proven to have made?

Re:Look (2, Insightful)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about 4 years ago | (#33665792)

She herself? One.

Re:Look (4, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 4 years ago | (#33665842)

Psystar was also ordered to pay Apple's legal fees. Furthermore, the exact penalty for infringement was likely lower because Apple did not register their copyright on OS X with the Copyright Office. By law, a plaintiff that does not have a registered copyright is limited to collecting actual damages, while those who register their copyrights can collect punitive damages. (I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice)

Re:Look (3, Informative)

jandrese (485) | about 4 years ago | (#33666212)

I thought with the PyStar case that PyStar had actually bought the copies of the OS off of the shelf, so Apple couldn't hit them for the full cost of the software. They ended up having to go with a much less effective "breaking the EULA on 750 copies of the software" case instead, which is why the judgement in that part was so low. Of course Apple was able to nail them with the DMCA violations instead, which have much sharper teeth because it was written by the recording industry.

Re:Look (4, Interesting)

Lovedumplingx (245300) | about 4 years ago | (#33665586)

It may sound like a stupid defense but honestly some people out there just didn't/still don't know that sharing certain (copyrighted) files is wrong.

About 5 years ago (from what I've heard as this was before my time) someone at my company was selling DVDs to co-workers and made some statement via an email to everyone in the company that it wasn't a problem if he ran out as he'd just make some more. He truly had no idea that what he was doing was illegal until the legal department and the IT department blasted him.

No one reads the FBI warnings at the beginning of films (and music doesn't really have one of those) so ignorance really is valid point one could make.

Re:Look (5, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | about 4 years ago | (#33665898)

It's not wrong, it's illegal. There's an important difference.

Re:Look (1)

Lovedumplingx (245300) | about 4 years ago | (#33666124)

Agreed. Probably should have written "illegal" instead of "wrong".

Re:Look (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666274)

It's illegal and it's wrong. There is a difference, but both are true here.

Re:Look (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | about 4 years ago | (#33665926)

What I find more entertaining is how the MafiAA - who've been slapped back and forth for filing false testimony (perjury), filing mountains of paperwork trying to bury defendants (barratry), caught in price-fixing collusion (conspiracy), falsifying evidence (forgery), providing "evidence" that was the result of deliberate computer crime on the part of their own "investigators", using "investigators" that they knew were not licensed for the investigations, and repeatedly filing SLAPP lawsuits against groups like the EFF - have the temerity to still be pushing this garbage.

Oh, and then there's their abusive filings of dozens if not hundreds of lawsuits at once, based on nothing but "information and belief" with no actual evidence, where they try to get the identities of people and then harass and threaten them in what has been best described as an organized, big-business-sanctioned extortion ring.

What a lot of these judges in the past have written at the lower-court level, especially when they greenlight these extortion racket tactics, make me suspect bribery to be in play as well.

Re:Look (4, Insightful)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | about 4 years ago | (#33666098)

What I find more entertaining is how the MafiAA - who've been slapped back and forth for filing false testimony (perjury), filing mountains of paperwork trying to bury defendants (barratry), caught in price-fixing collusion (conspiracy), falsifying evidence (forgery), providing "evidence" that was the result of deliberate computer crime on the part of their own "investigators", using "investigators" that they knew were not licensed for the investigations, and repeatedly filing SLAPP lawsuits against groups like the EFF - have the temerity to still be pushing this garbage.

Yes, and yet the girl is "vexatious" for demanding that her legal right to a fair trial be upheld.

The fact that today's music largely sucks is far from the only reason I haven't bought music in years. (And no, I don't download it illegally either).

Re:Look (4, Insightful)

veganboyjosh (896761) | about 4 years ago | (#33665604)

Ignorance is no excuse, and all of that, but I really think we'll start to see more of this. As filesharing becomes easier on the user's end, how is a new/naive/young user supposed to know it's illegal? I mean, type the name of any current pop artist into Google, followed by "rapidshare", "yousendit" or one of the myriad other large file sharing services, and usually one of the first links Google finds is the file itself, ready for download.

The fact that these types of cases are coming up again and again make clear that it's a contentious issue, at least for some. Someone out there takes issue with all this content being freely available.

To be clear, I'm not arguing one way or another on the filesharing/copyright issue. I'm just saying that as we move forward with the web and user interfaces, and searchability, then a 12 year old kid who has some brains and can figure out some clever search "hacks" becomes able to just find files that are publicly available to download with no warning, no mention of "this could be copyrighted", etc.

I've tried explaining the process for finding files like this to my father, who is probably a lot like most of your parents. Able to get online, but not really understanding the full intrecacies of the interwebs. I tried explaining how illegal this is, and that it's up to him to take that leap. I'm sure there are teenagers and preteens out there figuring this stuff out, too. Do you think that they're explaining the legalities and potential consquences to their friends, when they pass on the instructions?

As this knowledge passed down to further "generations" ofkids, and technology progresses, I could actually see how an ignorance defense could be fairly legitimate.

Re:Look (2, Insightful)

equex (747231) | about 4 years ago | (#33665752)

Ignorance is an excuse as long as there is no law classes in the public school system. You cant assume people just 'know' law.

Re:Look (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | about 4 years ago | (#33666042)

But they can, and did, assume that the original CD that the files came from included copyright notices, i.e. she shouldn't have copied the music from her CD regardless of the fact that she didn't know Limewire was automatically sharing those files. What should really be argued is the fact that a $750 fine is too high. Even $200 is too high. The Copyright Act was intended to punish for-profit pirates. The law shouldn't even apply to file-sharing as it has no relation to the law's original meaning. The RIAA/MPAA could, and do pick and choose anyone to sue under the law and make a profit by settling without a trial.

Re:Look (2, Insightful)

twidarkling (1537077) | about 4 years ago | (#33666434)

Except that she never had the CDs. Ever. At any point. It was merely the fact that CDs have the copyright notice on them was sufficient.

Re:Look (5, Interesting)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 4 years ago | (#33666100)

Ignorance is an excuse as long as there is no law classes in the public school system. You cant assume people just 'know' law

This is just a guess, but I'm not sure it is physically possible to know all the law anymore.

State, Local, Federal, Treaties... they all change, and some of the items being changed are thousands of pages long. Not only that, but written in legal language which is NOT readable by your normal citizen.

Let's say you go on vacation to some state park and decide to build a campfire. Is there a fire moratorium in effect? What do you have to do to make sure that your campfire is to code. Are there also local codes which you have to follow? What are your liabilities? Hope you have a few hours to go down to the government offices to look up the code (or the library) to read up on what you need to do to build your campfire. Oh crap, a CFL in your battery powered lantern died. Is there a disposal station nearby, what are your responsiblities for recycling/disposing of the lamp. I know there is Federal and State laws in place... Or are they laws, some might be rules imposed by the EPA at the federal level, or rules imposed by the state EPA. When was the last time those rules were updated, have they changed... etc.

Granted those are fairly mundane examples, but the concept that you are responsible for following the laws even if they are obscure is commonplace.

Re:Look (1)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | about 4 years ago | (#33666146)

Except for that one law that says that it's not an excuse. You ARE required to know the law or face the consequences, laws of nature be darned.

Re:Look (1, Flamebait)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | about 4 years ago | (#33666186)

That's where the "reasonably prudent" test comes into effect.

A reasonably prudent individual is going to know that making free copies of something that someone else created and is selling is wrong, just as a reasonably prudent person doesn't need to have the intricacies of the criminal code explained to them in order to know they shouldn't peer into the neighbor girl's window with binoculars.

That said, the malicious prosecutions by RIAA/MPAA have gone far over the top, and the underhanded and, frankly, illegal investigation tactics they employ should get most of these cases tossed out of court.

Re:Look (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 4 years ago | (#33665816)

Hey, the stupidity defense works for CEOs, so it's worth a shot!

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666180)

"What's bad is that's on the low-end compared to some of their other lawsuits :/"

It's for MPAA's benefit, they're trying to portray the offenders as cheapskates, it would look really bad for them to bankrupt someone for some music. As for her defense, where does it say it's illegal to download music? the torrents sites? Is there some obscure button where it says so? How about the torrent download program, like transmission or azureus. They might provide something similar to an EULA. What if I'm not a english native speaker, I just know enough to have a simple conversation, how should I decipher all that legallese? I'm not stupid, but I have trouble understanding that crap even in my native language. Oh yeah,

Re:Look (1)

uglyduckling (103926) | about 4 years ago | (#33666410)

Seriously, that is a serious defence. She was between 14 and 16 years old when she 'made available' these tracks. I've been involved in a few amateur bands with teenage members, and I've had to school quite a few of them on copyright law. Most teenagers don't realise that it's illegal to 'share' music, even thought they wouldn't consider pocketing a CD from a store. Most don't realise that it's illegal to photocopy sheet music either.

This is dumb. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665432)

"for file-sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader"

If she were a DEMOCRAT it wouldn't have been mentioned. Since she is a cheerleader you go out of your way to make it known. How typical.

Relentless legal jockeying (4, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 4 years ago | (#33665462)

Really RIAA? Really? You are accusing someone else of "relentless legal jockeying". /head asplodes

Re:Relentless legal jockeying (3, Insightful)

jgagnon (1663075) | about 4 years ago | (#33665730)

It's like any other extremist view. They're right, you're wrong. Any action you take other than being wrong and paying for it is a complete waste of time.

The MPAA (4, Insightful)

Dracos (107777) | about 4 years ago | (#33665468)

... is complaining about someone else's relentless legal jockeying? How much blacker can the pot get while impugning the kettle's color? Until this girl (or any other individual) has the means to write and buy their own federal legislation, the MPAA should STFU.

Obligatory... (4, Funny)

srussia (884021) | about 4 years ago | (#33665578)

How much blacker can the pot get while impugning the kettle's color?

The answer is none. None more black.

Re:Obligatory... (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | about 4 years ago | (#33665746)

So light black and dark black are the same color? What about fluorescent black? :p

Re:Obligatory... (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 4 years ago | (#33666442)

Is so black that made the color of everything else in the universe to raise 2 steps toward white.

Re:The MPAA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665622)

Didn't know the MPAA was a part of a music downloading legal case.

Funny. (1, Redundant)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 4 years ago | (#33665472)

And here I thought it was the RIAA who was vexatious.

Re:Funny. (3, Insightful)

robot256 (1635039) | about 4 years ago | (#33665770)

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but accusation is the highest form of hypocrisy. The greatest hypocrites always accuse others of what they themselves are guilty of.

I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33665538)

If I'm going to face a life time punishment (how long it takes to pay off a million dollar fine), it might as well be for something worthy.

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (4, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 4 years ago | (#33665624)

Why stop there? Kill the motherfuckers who hired him too.

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | about 4 years ago | (#33665774)

Steal the toupee off the head of every RIAA lawyer?

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (1)

lavagolemking (1352431) | about 4 years ago | (#33665834)

You know somebody just as evil will take his place, right? That's not going to accomplish a lot.

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (2, Insightful)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 4 years ago | (#33665864)

Yes, but then at least CEO2 would worry a little about pissing consumers off.

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (1)

lavagolemking (1352431) | about 4 years ago | (#33666036)

Eh, but with the amount of money they waste on these lawsuits, and the reckless nature with which they pursue defendants despite the bad press it gets them, and none of that serving as a deterrent, I would be willing to bet they would use the death of their predecessors as leverage for a new law (can we say ACTA?) rather than clean up their act.

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (4, Insightful)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33666118)

If you've just severed the head of your enemy and placed it on a pike in the field, how many folks do you think will step up to take his place? This is what we call "Setting an example".

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about 4 years ago | (#33665928)

That sound nice, and I'd like to think the same thing of myself, but then I might remind you of the Man I Killed, by the ultimate DIYers, NOFX:

When they tightly strap me in, give me lethal injection,
Just a few moments to live, no remorse for what I did,
Was for the betterment of man, I gave the utmost sacrifice,
Before more damage could be done I took his life.

There was a split second of silence when the dart punctured the skin,
Beady eyes rolled back in head, the body dropped from the poison,
They could incapacitate me, but could not erase my sneer,
I heard a thousand people screaming, while three billion others cheered,
He was gone, and I would soon be...

Executed by the state, all appeals would be in vain,
I was not criminally insane, in fact I was found to be,
An otherwise caring and respectable member of society,

A minor threat except for that one man I killed.

As the sedatives take effect, I just smile and close my eyes,
There's a priest kneeling next to me, he asks me if I realize,
I was going straight to hell, and he thought that I should know,
That the man I killed's replacement planned this whole scenario,
And what I did had no significance at all.


Corporations are monstrosities. They've all the privilege of being human, except they keep moving no matter how many times you cut ther head off.

Re:I'd shoot the RIAA CEO in the head (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 4 years ago | (#33666446)

Corporations are monstrosities. They've all the privilege of being human, except they keep moving no matter how many times you cut ther head off.

Zombies, not monstrosities. This is, after all, Slashdot. A certain amount of technical precision is assumed.

Vexatious? No $#@! (5, Insightful)

bornagainpenguin (1209106) | about 4 years ago | (#33665540)

The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying.

Since the advent of these cases it has been clear that the intent was to bury people financially and for the **AA to use the courts as a bludgeon to scare the rest of the populace--not the pursuit of justice. Now they're upset because someone with nothing to lose (ruinous legal judgments that cannot reasonably be paid back by an individual tends to create that mentality) has decided to use their own strategy against them? Tough $#@! **AA. Bed. Made. Lie.

How do you like this taste of your own medicine? Hopefully this kind of thing will catch on and more people will choose to drag their cases out for as long as possible and this will cost the **AA so much more than they anticipated.

--bornagainpenguin

Re:Vexatious? No $#@! (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 4 years ago | (#33665856)

It's more silly than that. From what I've read, the defendant wants the case to go to trial instead of being forced into a settlement. That's "vexatious" in the eyes of the RIAA.

Re:Vexatious? No $#@! (4, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33666048)

Well, yes and no. The RIAA's position is that her petition has been already asked and answered by the courts, twice.

What gets me is that if the RIAA is correct, then her settlement offer of $1200 should have been acceptable, but they refused it. So their own vexatious accusation makes them in the wrong for rejecting a fair settlement, which is in and of itself vexatious if not frivolous.

Re:Vexatious? No $#@! (5, Interesting)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 4 years ago | (#33666320)

The big deal here is that the RIAA's standard modus operandi of retracting all charges before they have to present evidence and support their case and then return to slam the defendant with more financial ruin threats outside of court will not work. The supreme court will not take any of that bullshit, and if they try to pull out, they will just lose, plain and simple. And not just the case, they will lose face and credibility (what little they have).

By forcing the issue, Harper is scaring them into the one scenario they were never willing to face - playing the game through to the end.

The RIAA finally went too far (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33665588)

Messing with a pretty white cheerleader with Republican parents, in Texas? They got *way* too cocky there. Even Satan's powers have their limits.

Re:The RIAA finally went too far (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | about 4 years ago | (#33665832)

As with most things like this, it is not the chance of success that drives you, it's the irrepressible thoughts about what might happen if you are successful.

Re:The RIAA finally went too far (2, Funny)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 4 years ago | (#33666130)

Will it be long before Hiro and Ando show up?

Re:The RIAA finally went too far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666302)

LOL!

Consider yourself submitted to Seen on Slash!

Those sneaky defendants! (3, Insightful)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | about 4 years ago | (#33665670)

How is the RIAA supposed to win if those pesky file sharers won't stop defending themselves?!?

Constitutionality (5, Insightful)

lavagolemking (1352431) | about 4 years ago | (#33665744)

What we should be considering is whether the $750-to-200,000-per-file fine is constitutional, more than whether someone knew it was copyright. Seriously, find me another crime (especially civil) that has a heavier penalty, even a punitive one.

Re:Constitutionality (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 4 years ago | (#33665918)

Life in prison for every person to whom you give a gift, when that gift is a knife, and you deliver it by leaving it right where they will find it in their chest.

Re:Constitutionality (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | about 4 years ago | (#33665978)

When you commit multiple crimes and are found guilty, you serve a combined time for the crimes. There are laws in place that state a fine for EACH infraction. So if you share 50 files or 500, your fine will be different.

It would be interesting to find out if you could be held liable for 50 illegal copies if you leave a CD and 50 blank CDR disks at a computer. In theory that isn't much different than putting a file up on a torrent. You didn't make the copies but you sure made it easy for someone else to. Hmm...

Re:Constitutionality (1)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | about 4 years ago | (#33666244)

You almost certainly can. Remember: the RIAA will have an establishment fined if they do not pay the RIAA extor^H^H^Hfees on live performances of original music written and still owned by the performer. And then they won't give the "royalty" fees to the owner of the music, because he did not go through them in the first place.

Cheerleader? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665750)

  How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

Re:Cheerleader? (3, Insightful)

schon (31600) | about 4 years ago | (#33665920)

It doesn't have any impact on the case, but it does have an impact on the readers.

Think about it - this is a site filled with pasty white guys who live in their parents basement. You mention one of the parties is a cheerleader, we're all gonna click the link to see if there's a picture.

We still won't read the article, but we'll go looking for the pic, and so the submitter will get a few more ad impressions. :)

Re:Cheerleader? (5, Funny)

Surt (22457) | about 4 years ago | (#33665930)

  How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

It makes the 'I didn't know it was illegal' defense she is using more plausible.

Re:Cheerleader? (1)

spamking (967666) | about 4 years ago | (#33666152)

Should've added that she was a blonde cheerleader for even greater emphasis.

Re:Cheerleader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665934)

  How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

Save the cheerleader, save the world.

Re:Cheerleader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665954)

Cause we'll probably buy the innocent infringer defense?

Re:Cheerleader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665984)

see this post [slashdot.org]

Re:Cheerleader? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666050)

If you think being young and extraordinarily beautiful does not matter - well -
There is just no hope for you at all!

Re:Cheerleader? (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33666090)

How does her having been a cheerleader have any impact on this case? Why even mention it?

How much does a Cheerleader earn per year, typically?

And are Cheerleaders usually found profiting from copyright infringement as a profession?

Sure they could have said 'student', but this label also identifies her gender, and puts an image in a person's head.

Vexatious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33665802)

The RIAA has decried Harper as 'vexatious,' because of her relentless legal jockeying

The RIAA has decried [anyone who doesn't immediately pay up] as 'vexatious', because of [their unwillingness to fold like a wet blanket in the face of marginally legal extortionist bullying tactics].

FTFY.

-AC

Damages? (5, Insightful)

koterica (981373) | about 4 years ago | (#33665908)

If the 'innocent infringer' defense doesn't fly, how about awarding full damages? $0.99 cents per song seems reasonable. If she left bittorent running till the share ratio hit 2.0, maybe she should even pay &1.98 per song. Thats like 70 bucks, or three albums. The price is steep, but she did "steal" the songs. The RIAA deserves to be fairly compensated for their losses.

Re:Damages? (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | about 4 years ago | (#33666140)

She should just pay her $.99. Whoever downloaded from her should pay his own share.

Re:Damages? (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 4 years ago | (#33666168)

That's not fair though. The whole point of punitive damages is to punish the infringer, not just force them to buy it. If all you pay for is the price of the song, then why ever buy anything? Just pirate it - the worst that happens is you have to pay for it. Because there was willful intent here, I think the rule of treble damages applies.

So that is $2.97 per song.

Re:Damages? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666176)

actually wouldn't the damages be less? The $0.99 is the retail price and if bought on iTunes Apple gets 30% so wouldn't the actual damage be $0.69 per song and if you add triple damages for punitive thats only $.2.76 per song or $102.12.

Re:Damages? (1)

Storebj0rn (692884) | about 4 years ago | (#33666290)

And then there would be plaintiff's legal fees, which, although the RIAA legal team might _sound_ like a broken record, would be substantially more than .99 per 3 minute "track"

Corporate lap dogs (4, Insightful)

plopez (54068) | about 4 years ago | (#33665960)

The "conservative" SCOTUS will probably rule in favor of the record industry, tightening the strangle hold corporations have on the US. They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government (in the form of police and secret police powers) and corporations for at least 20 years now.

Re:Corporate lap dogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666166)

The "conservative" SCOTUS will probably rule in favor of the record industry, tightening the strangle hold corporations have on the US. They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government (in the form of police and secret police powers) and corporations for at least 20 years now.

This could be true, but they'd be beckoning in reform once the current kids come to power. It might be better to split for 'reasonable' now, rather than undermining the future of the recording industry by blatantly ignoring the will of the people. Placate, rather than agitate.

Hard to say which way they'll shake it.

Re:Corporate lap dogs (3, Interesting)

chemicaldave (1776600) | about 4 years ago | (#33666182)

Why wouldn't they? The law is unquestionably on the RIAA's side. The big issue isn't a matter of "did these people break the law" but rather, "should the copyright act apply to filesharing" and "are these fines are inflated and have no context to casual filesharers?".

Re:Corporate lap dogs (5, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | about 4 years ago | (#33666324)

They have been systematically stripping individuals of rights while handing more power to the government

Except for those pro-gun 2nd Amendment rulings in Heller and McDonald.

The "conservative" SCOTUS

Pssst, your editorial bias is showing!

The RIAA is the plaintiff... (5, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | about 4 years ago | (#33666072)

...and they're accusing the DEFENDANT of being vexatious? That's not usually the way it works.

I rather suspect, though, that the US Supreme Court will smack down the Fifth Circuit for ignoring the law's requirement of a minimum of $750/infringement, thereby protecting the RIAA from activist judges and hordes of underaged cheerleaders. Copyright uber alles, after all.

Supreme Court May TUNE In to Music Download Case (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33666172)

I am intrigued to hear on which doctrine they will bass their decision

FYI: The relevant section of copyright law (4, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 4 years ago | (#33666286)

I really had to read this for myself:

US Copyright Law: Chapter 5. Statutory damages [copyright.gov]

(1) Except as provided by clause (2) of this subsection, the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just. For the purposes of this subsection, all the parts of a compilation or derivative work constitute one work.

(2) In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000. In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200. The court shall remit statutory damages in any case where an infringer believed and had reasonable grounds for believing that his or her use of the copyrighted work was a fair use under section 107, if the infringer was: (i) an employee or agent of a nonprofit educational institution, library, or archives acting within the scope of his or her employment who, or such institution, library, or archives itself, which infringed by reproducing the work in copies or phonorecords; or (ii) a public broadcasting entity which or a person who, as a regular part of the nonprofit activities of a public broadcasting entity (as defined in subsection (g) of section 118) infringed by performing a published nondramatic literary work or by reproducing a transmission program embodying a performance of such a work.

(Watch me get sued for copying legal text verbatim)

Some thoughts:
- This is all at the discretion of the judge.
- The $200 seems to apply per copyright infringement charge. But what is that unit really? Naturally, the RIAA would say "per song" but even $200 per album seems extreme. Per song? What if a 30-second clip is enough to be a copyright infringement. Can the RIAA claim that a 2 minute song is 4 30-second infringements so that is $200 * 4 = $800? Or... is a 35 second song really 5 overlapping infringements of 30-second clips so that's $200 * 5 = $1000. I don't think this is what the authors of the law intended. Could you even buy individual tracks when this law was written?

The summary is wrong. (5, Informative)

davev2.0 (1873518) | about 4 years ago | (#33666358)

The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400 - or $200 per song. That's an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright act.

The judge found her an innocent infringer, which means the judge believes she didn't understand that what she was doing was illegal. That kicks in USC 17 504.C.2 which states:

In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.

The judge gave her the miminum fine for what he determined to be the truth of the case. The $750 is the minimum award for a finding of willful infringement and so his award is not well below anything.

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