Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Copyright Law - Eighth Circuit: Is Making Music Available on A Peer-to-Peer Network Copyright Infringement?

Copyright Infringement, Music Copyrights, Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, Statutory Damages, Injunctions

Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset, 692 F.3d 899 (8th Cir. September 11, 2012).  Record companies sued woman who copied copyrighted music files onto a file-sharing service and made songs available for others to copy for free.  First jury awarded $222,000.  New trial granted because of jury instruction that “making available” sound recordings violated Copyright Act regardless of whether there was actual distribution.  Second jury awarded $1.9 million.  Judge remitted award down to $54,000.  Record companies opted for new trial on damages and got $1.5 million.  On appeal, record companies wanted original $222,000 jury award and a ruling that “making available” a sound recording on a peer-to-peer network violates the Copyright Act, regardless of whether anyone downloads it.  Defendant challenged constitutionality of award and scope of injunctive relief against her.  Held: $220,000 jury award for copying with no profit motive constitutional and not shocking to the conscience.  Record companies’ request for ruling on “making available” right moot, even though district court enjoined Defendant from such activity because injunctions often encompass otherwise legal activities by persons who have shown proclivity to disobey the law and where enjoining only illegal act not capable of monitoring to protect victim.
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