Sunday, May 02, 2010

Judge Tosses $2 Million Jury Verdict for Downloading 24 Songs as "Simply Shocking"

From Capitol Records Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset, 680 F.Supp.2d 1045, 1054 (D.Minn. 2010)

The Court has considered the strong need for deterrence in this particular case, the difficulty in quantifying the damages caused by the chain effect of Thomas-Rasset's distribution of copyrighted sound recordings over the Internet, the large scale damages caused by online piracy in aggregate, and the substantial impediments to identifying and pursuing infringers. However, despite the combination of these justifications and the Court's deference to the jury's verdict, $2 million for stealing 24 songs for personal use is simply shocking. No matter how unremorseful Thomas-Rasset may be, assessing a $2 million award against an individual consumer for use of Kazaa is unjust. Even Plaintiffs admit that Thomas-Rasset is unlikely to ever be able to pay such an award. Having determined that the current verdict is so shocking that it must be remitted, the Court next faces the task of assessing the proper amount of remittitur


David G. Mitchell said...

My initial reaction to the judge's decision was negative but, upon reflection, finding a dollar amount that the defendant can pay is probably more of a deterrent than a huge number that amounts to far more than the defendant's net worth. An enforced judgement of, say $24,000 would certainly sting. It would also establish a good guide for future decisions. Indeed, it would be nice to see the Act amended to provide for more specifically manageable damage calculations when infringers infringe for personal use.

Crosbie Fitch said...

It remains theoretically possible that remorse should not be expected in the case of an individual enjoying their cultural liberty.

Whilst Pol Pot may have ordered immediate execution for anyone found engaging in acts of cultural exchange, such as singing, even he might not have expected remorse from the miscreants.

To be prosecuted in our slightly more civilised society for exchanging songs with other individuals (on pain of million dollar fines) should, dare I suggest it, instead evoke remorse in those legislators yet retaining a degree of humanity (not yet subordinate to Milgram).

Robert Stack said...

These multi-million dollar fines recommended by the recording industry are a gross misrepresentation of the actual dollar value. On more than one occasion, such figures have been shown to have been based on theoretical numbers and guesses, multiplied by the value of one song (likely the most expensive of those values-- not all songs are $1 on iTunes). A smaller, more reasonable value that still proves a point (such as the $24,000 value proposed in another comment) would be more justifiable, but there's no clear cut reason even something this great should be placed upon what I suspect is a first-time offender in a world where file-sharing is socially (but not legally) acceptable.