Posts Tagged ‘filesharing’

Ruling in US file-sharing case found insane and unconstitutional

June 20, 2009

riaaRaw Story article reports on Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset, the “first file-sharing case to go on trial,” where a Minnesota jury fines woman $1.92 million for sharing 24 songs – $80,000 per song! (Typically individuals targeted by the recording industry settle for around $3k according to BBC). The verdict has been described as “insane” by ZDNet and “unconstitutional” by EFF. Insane because the extremely high amount actually exceeds the $750-30,000 per infringement fine for “willful violation,” ( bound by Title 17, section 504), the evidence for willful violation is weak, the rejected ruling in the first trial was much less ($220k total). And unconstitutional for two reasons: 1) “grossly excessive” punitive damages “violate the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution” and 2) excessive damages suggest jury ruled in order to “send a message”  to other users, which violates recent Supreme Court rulings that “a jury may not award statutory damages for the express or implicit purpose of deterring other infringers who are not parties in the case before the court.”

Implications: ZDNet suggests this could bring down RIAA, Ray Beckerman’s blog Recording Industry vs. The People suggests this will make US justices system the laughing stock of the international community, and EFF suggests that claims of unconstitutionality will be presented to the judge in “post-trial” motions, who will hopefully find the case unconstitutional and dismiss it. (Nnot sure about this last point).

At the very least, this will freak many people out (the millions of file sharers out there), destroy the woman who was scapegoated by the recording industry, and perhaps demonstrate to law makers, regulators and the public that new laws, regulations, and user protections are desperately needed to stop future abuse by RIAA and pro-industry  juries coerced by powerful RIAA legal teams.