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$1.9 Million Award In Thomas Case Raises Constitutional Questions

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the copyright-is-out-of-control dept.

The Courts 439

Techdirt points out that the EFF is examining the constitutionality of the recent $1.9 million verdict awarded in favor of the RIAA against Jammie Thomas. While on the surface it may seem that this excessive award should be easy to overturn since grossly excessive punitive damage awards are considered to violate the Due Process clause of the US Constitution, the Supreme Court seems to have been ignoring precedent and upholding copyright's importance at any cost. "Given the size of the statutory damages award, Ms. Thomas-Rasset's legal team will likely be seriously considering a constitutional challenge to the verdict. A large and disproportionate damage award like this raises at least two potential constitutional concerns. First, the Supreme Court has made it clear that 'grossly excessive' punitive damage awards (e.g., $2 million award against BMW for selling a repainted BMW as 'new') violate the Due Process clause of the US Constitution. In evaluating whether an award 'grossly excessive,' courts evaluate three criteria: 1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's actions, 2) the disparity between the harm to the plaintiff and the punitive award, and 3) the similarity or difference between the punitive award and civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable situations. Does a $1.92 million award for sharing 24 songs cross the line into 'grossly excessive?' And do these Due Process limitations apply differently to statutory damages than to punitive damages? These are questions that the court will have to decide if the issue is raised by Ms. Thomas-Rasset's attorneys."

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Failed once, will fail again. (5, Insightful)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393463)

Depressing as hell, but the system is bought, paid for, and bent beyond repair.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (5, Insightful)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393525)

Maybe that doesn't matter. Maybe one of these times it will become undeniably obvious (to people not on slashdot) that all of the above is true. I don't think the victory will be in this case. I hope the victory will be in the system no longer being able to pretend it is "for the people, by the people".

Re:Failed - Did they play possum intentionally? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393729)

I wonder myself whether the defense DELIBERATELY anticipated a huge defeat in not refuting evidence or calling expert witnesses,
all in an attempt to "shoot the moon" and get unreasonably high damages awarded which would, as it happened, stir controversy and
undermine the RIAA in future venues up the court chain. Thomas was certainly painted as a victim in media coverage, (rightly so, yes)
and the idea that ANY song is worth 80,000$ for being stolen in ANY form is pretty ludicrous and now widely acknowledged as such.

Re:Failed - Did they play possum intentionally? (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393913)

Seems like a pretty huge gamble to not only saddle your client with a huge unpayable debt but also set precedence for future cases just on the hope that it would stir public opinion enough to overcome the powerful RIAA lobby and get favorable legislative action on the issue, meanwhile hoping you can somehow get the ruling reversed on appeal (maybe due to ineffective counsel?) If my lawyer tried a tactic like that, they would be fired well before the trial.

Re:Failed - Did they play possum intentionally? (5, Insightful)

click2005 (921437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394091)

From the sounds of it, the client was unable to pay their initial settlement offer of a few thousand.
If thats the case then is there much different between being bankrupt and unable to pay say $50,000 or $5,000,000?

Re:Failed - Did they play possum intentionally? (4, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393969)

I'd say the defense should get shit for legal malpractice.

Re:Failed - Did they play possum intentionally? (2, Interesting)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394047)

Uh, there's a problem with appeals and excessive amounts. In same cases (although not in civil courts I think, IANAL/correct me at will), you have to post a portion of the money to appeal directly. However in this case due to constitutionality might not be the case.

I'm wondering how good the replacement lawyer was and if that has a factor as well.

Basically the whole case is wide open to appeals though, all around.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1, Insightful)

castironpigeon (1056188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393917)

I hope the victory will be in the system no longer being able to pretend it is "for the people, by the people".

And then what? Just because people don't read /. doesn't mean they're stupid. They know what's going on as well as we do. Maybe they know it because their pension plans are gone or their kids are dead in a dummy war the US is fighting to keep the economy afloat. This broken system is the best we've got. No reform and no revolution could change that. What would you revolt into that would be incorruptible? People are incapable of governing themselves. Someday we'll design better people or machines who will be able to conquer and govern the rest of us effectively. Until then, just try to lay low.

I know I'll be labeled as flamebait for this but.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394117)

No system is perfect. Reforming could not make your system perfect. It doesn't mean that it would be as good as it can be, the best one around or even good. It is none of those.

Europeans have considered USA justice system a joke for decades. Where I live, it is very common subject for jokes. As in... You can sue for unbelievably stupid reasons. You can actually win those law suits. And you can win massive amounts.

In no other country than USA would MacDonalds be sued because the coffee is too hot and burns your lap when you spill it while drinking coffee and driving. And in no other country would Mac Donalds then decide "There is risk that this can happen again, so we need to specifically put a 'coffee is hot' warning label.". Same goes for suing fast food chains because you are too fat, suing microwave oven company because your cat died when you put it in a microwave oven...

No system is perfect but the one you guys have just sucks. A lot.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393571)

If worse comes to worse, she can declare chapter 13 personal bankruptcy, make a "best effort" attempt to repay the verdict over the next three years (the bankruptcy court will set a reasonable monthly payment based on her income and expenses), and she's relieved of the debt. She can keep her home, her car, her personal possessions. It will be a pain in the ass, but she doesn't have to wind up on the street or have jackbooted thugs come into her house and confiscate everything she owns.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393653)

Depressing as hell, but the system is bought, paid for, and bent beyond repair.

Absolutely it is. When you have ex-RIAA lawyers getting assigned to high Department of Justice positions by this administration, what chance does Jammie Thomas think she has? They can appeal it all the way to the supreme court, and it's still going to get shot down; like you said, the whole system is bought and paid for.

The saddest part about it is that it's not just the judicial system. Our Congressmen have literally been bought and paid for by big business lobbyists for years now. Depressing indeed.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393981)

Speaking as a Brit, I have to ask...

What the hell happened to that former colony ours that fought for freedom and began a war of independence over unfair taxation?

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394089)

Two Chickens in Every pot, Two cars in every garage.

Hey man, we have mortgage payments, car payments, the kids schools to pay for, transportation, Internet services, TV services, that rental couch my wife just HAD to have, the big screen TV, our DVD collection. Don't forget the BBQ next sunday with all the neighbors! We have to prepare for that too. Don't forget about nana's prescriptions, and the new game console for little Timmy, oh and games.

People only fight when they have nothing left to loose. Whos going to join the revolution if they have stuff they don't want to lose?

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (3, Funny)

mcpkaaos (449561) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394225)

People only fight when they have nothing left to loose.

If you have nothing left to loose, you are probably done fighting.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (5, Insightful)

cavtroop (859432) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394123)

we got fat and lazy. Literally and figuratively.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394125)

Corporatism.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394219)

Well, at least we don't have surveillance cameras at every corner...

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1)

ciggieposeur (715798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394247)

What the hell happened to that former colony ours that fought for freedom and began a war of independence over unfair taxation?

It followed your example and became an Empire, with similar results.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394317)

Funny, when I speak as a Brit I say things like "This parrot is no more!" and "Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!"

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394335)

The same thing that happened to a certain former empire that used to control a large portion of the world.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (2, Insightful)

bkaul (1235970) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394359)

Speaking as a Brit, I have to ask...

What the hell happened to that former colony ours that fought for freedom and began a war of independence over unfair taxation?

FDR. Not that he was responsible for modern copyright law, etc. but the era of big socialistic government programs taking precedence over individual liberty started when he stacked the courts to push his New Deal through despite it being opposed to everything the Constitution stands for.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393741)

Welcome to the U$A.

Re:Failed once, will fail again. (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394351)

12 guys pissing all over the 8th amendment does make them a "Jury of Peers"

What I think should happen (2, Interesting)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393489)

I think they should subpoena the jury and ask them exactly how they came up with $2M in damages. As I noted before. This sounds extremely fishy that they would award that type of money to the RIAA. I suspect there was jury tampering involved.

Re:What I think should happen (3, Interesting)

Freetardo Jones (1574733) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393617)

What is fishy about it? She has been clearly guilty of this crime since the beginning and she's only been assigned about half of the maximum statutory limit. I don't see why this leads to any notion that there was jury tampering. All it leads me to believe is that these statutory limits need to be seriously looked at and made to fit more correctly the crime.

Re:What I think should happen (4, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394143)

This verdict is a simple reflection of the fact that the jury has no
sense of perspective on this matter. They probably just pulled a number
out of their collective posteriors. You probably had some crying for
blood advocating the full amount and others advocating the minimum
amount. The foreman probably split down the middle and probably didn't
even bother to AVERAGE the proposed amounts.

Can you relate to 2 million dollars? Do you think the average jurist can?

Do you think the average American can?

So, Minnesotans think that running a P2P app with some music on it rates 50% the maximum penalty.

It makes you wonder what they think merits the minimum or the maximum.

Mebbe the 200x range of damages spelled out in the law just demonstrates how bogus it is.

Re:What I think should happen (2, Interesting)

The Moof (859402) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393765)

I believe I read somewhere that they claimed it was a "per-upload" infraction. So it's something like she uploaded 24 songs something like 27,000 at $70 per violation.

Re:What I think should happen (3, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394269)

I believe I read somewhere that they claimed it was a "per-upload" infraction. So it's something like she uploaded 24 songs something like 27,000 at $70 per violation.

There were 24 songs available -- no proof of any of them ever being uploaded.

Did they prove 27,000 downloads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394377)

I don't think so...

PS wasn't she guilty of making available. That's a continuous thing. You don't accuse someone of killing another and then multiply that by the number of days the person they killed isn't alive, do you?

"And the dead man has been dead for 832 days, meaning each day he's been killed by this man. He should serve 832 life sentences!!!"

Re:What I think should happen (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393923)

That's absurd. They were dealing with statutory damages, it literally by the (statute) book.

There's no way to think she didn't do it (3, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393531)

But this definitely should be examined. These asinine penalties for a non-commercial copyright infringement is just insane. Hell, even for commercial copyright infringement... $1.9 million for someone selling essentially two copied CD's? Does that sound right to anyone other than someone who works for the RIAA directly or indirectly?

Re:There's no way to think she didn't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393597)

Should compare it to the maximum penalties for shoplifting an equivalent item

Re:There's no way to think she didn't do it (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394109)

When you realise that the minimum statutory penalty for copying a CD is higher than the maximum penalty for stealing the CD, you see quite how messed up copyright law has become.

Re:There's no way to think she didn't do it (4, Interesting)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393709)

The question is not whether or not she downloaded the songs, it should be whether or not she did it with the intent of providing the same to others. I could support damages equal to the market value (plus reasonable punitive damages) of what she obtained iff (sic) she didn't upload anything but to suggest that this woman is even in the same league as someone who sells thousands of copied CDs is just silly. A common belief here is that the jury came down hard on her because she lied in court, but isn't perjury a criminal matter and shouldn't it have no bearing on the damages levied against her for a few dozen MP3s?

You have to wonder... (1)

twilightzero (244291) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393541)

...if her lawyers planned or even steered this way since it may be a more fruitful avenue to pursue in the end. Either way it's absolutely absurd and obscene. It's pretty obvious this whole house of cards the recording industry has made will fall, the question is just which attack will make it finally crumble?

Make it a 1.9 trillion...same payout (1)

cockpitcomp (1575439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393557)

How does a mere mortal actually pay a judgment like this?

It is not over (4, Insightful)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393575)

The RIAA has been making very telling statements after the verdict. They realize that with a judgment like this public reaction is more than just turning on them. The fact that it is also hurting their brands (Sony, EMI, Universal, Warner Bros) is also worrying them. Eventually they will cave or lose.

Re:It is not over (4, Interesting)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394015)

The RIAA has been making very telling statements after the verdict.

Yes, it's amusing. They're being quite defensive about it. They've been caught with with their greedy pants down.

Re:It is not over (1)

reginaldo (1412879) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394161)

Could it be that this ruling is actually an anti-RIAA ruling in disguise? Rather than making an example of Thomas to promote the RIAA, the judge may be pointing out the absurdity of the legal damages allowed. Too bad for Thomas though, she is going to be struggling financially from now on.

Duh... (4, Interesting)

mdf356 (774923) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393577)

When it's large damages against a company [yahoo.com] the Supremes know it's not good. But statutory damages to an individual that lines the pockets of business, that's great! (For 5 of 9 anyways). Summary: businesses good, people bad.

Re:Duh... (5, Insightful)

theodicey (662941) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393679)

Yup. The Roberts court's infinite pity for poor beleaguered corporations such as Exxon and BMW will be replaced by complete concern for the victims of crimes committed by individuals.

Objectively, one would think that corporations would need more and clearer punishment, not leniency. The only thing preventing corporations from behaving amorally is the risk of financial punishment -- CEOs have almost no personal liability. Individual citizens risk criminal punishment, and have to answer to society's moral standards.

Re:Duh... (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394229)

I would say that the court should honor precedent and set the initial judgement exactly as it did the much cited McDonald's case. That is two days of her profits from the pirated music, then reduce that by 80%, then settle for what was much likely a lower amount.

Punitive damages are meant to from doing things again. In this case I will increase my efforts to by local music, or independent, and minimize my interaction with such a dangerous organization as RIAA.

Our country is run by the right. (2, Insightful)

JANYAtty. (678934) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393629)

The exxon valdez jury awarded 5 billion dollars in punitive damages. That oil spill has left a ring around that bay that is clearly visible to this day. The courts reduced this by a factor of 10. Because it would be unfair to make one of the worlds richest and most profitable companies pay for their own f--kups that continue to afflict Alaska. Will this kid get a reduction? No. Becouse the court is a conservative court of 7 justices apointed by republican presidents. What does it mean that the court is conservative? The Court sides with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.â Thatâ(TM)s conservative jurisprudence in a nutshell.

Re:Our country is run by the right. (1)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394163)

Why are you knocking the court and judges? Their job is to apply the law no matter how stupid the law is. Courts are supposed to apply the law, not make it. It's Congress that needs to fix these messed up laws. But unfortunately we have elected a Congress that can be bought by Disney.

Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (5, Insightful)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393639)

The RIAA always talks about how they are just protecting the interests of the artists. It stands to reason that this is a reflexive property.

If that is valid (and I certainly believe the first part of the supposition above is highly questionable), then here are the people you should hold accountable for this travesty of justice; the artists on her list:

  • Guns N Roses ("Welcome to the Jungle"; "November Rain")
  • Janet Jackson ("Let's What Awhile")
  • Goo Goo Dolls ("Iris")
  • Vanessa Williams ("Save the Best for Last")
  • Aerosmith ("Cryin")
  • Gloria Estefan ("Here We Are"; "Coming Out of the Heart"; "Rhythm is Gonna Get You")
  • Green Day ("Basket Case")
  • Journey ("Faithfully"; "Don't Stop Believing")
  • Destiny Child ("Bills, Bills, Bills")
  • Sara McLachlan ("Possession"; "Building a Mystery")
  • Richard Marx ("Now and Forever")
  • Linkin Park ("One Step Closer")
  • Sheryl Crow ("Run Baby Run")
  • Def Leppard ("Pour Some Sugar on Me")
  • No Doubt ("Bathwater"; "Hella Good"; "Different People")
  • Reba McEntire ("One Honest Heart")
  • Bryan Adams ("Somebody")

I have a Green Day album and a couple Aerosmith albums. I figure to send it back with a suitably sardonic letter referencing the fact that I no longer want their music, and if they are in such financial hardship, they can re-sell it to help them put food on the table.

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (3, Funny)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393691)

Sickest thing is that its all this for a handful of mediocre songs.

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394065)

Anybody seeding a Jammie Thomas playlist out there? Mediocre or not, those songs are going viral!

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (-1, Troll)

korekrash (853240) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393739)

Um, huh? Dude, it's THEFT. I just don't understand this outlook. It's called the music BUSINESS for a reason. Blame the artists? Should Best Buy be blamed if I walk in and steal some electronics? And should we blame Sony if the item I steal is a VAIO laptop? That makes NO sense....

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393967)

This is why I never bought CDs in the first place. The RIAA is not concerned with the welfare of its "Clients" it is only concerned with the lining of its own pockets. They care little for who they destroy in the name of "Justice" when their justice is just bullying those who cannot defend themselves. Its like putting someone to death for parking in a handycap space.

Seriously. This woman, and by extension her children, will never again live a normal life. The purpose of the justice system is to impress on those who break the law the seriousness of their infractions, NOT to doom them to "Prison without chains". She will never again have a financially stable life. She will never again be able to do anything but stare at the sheer weight that the twisted law has put on her shoulders. Her children will NEVER go to college if they are not given a free ride, which is more and more difficult to do in this world, and because of one small infraction(Yes, an INDIVIDUAL doing this is a small infraction even if it is part of a larger problem, the actions of the whole cannot be lumped on the shoulders of any single individual) she will be in all senses of the word, dead.

But so long as the wheels are greased by the right people laws will never be written to curb this kind of gross abuse of the system. All in all she's liable for what? 5-10 dollars per song when everything is taken into account? Even with a list that long it barely makes it into the realm of theft and far from the minimum of grand theft.

And all the while the artists, who this is supposedly done in the name of, are receiving how much of this money? How many dollars actually makes it back to them when a case is won? I'm doubting its very much after the lawyers exorbitant salary, the money used to grease the right wheels on capitol hill and the money that flat out goes to the RIAA as "Payment" for a "Service rendered". I don't think they care if they get to buy two sports cars that year instead of one. Or line a little more of their pool with gold.

The Day the RIAA closes its doors... is going to be a good day.

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (1)

geekyMD (812672) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394045)

Exactly so! Green Day claims to be so socially progressive but here they are waiting to collect $80,000 for one song from a mother of four. What a bunch of hypocrites. Unless someone challenges them on this nothing is going to happen. Does anyone know of a way to directly impact these bands?

I suggest flooding their myspace pages with questions about why they are supporting this decision as well as the broader RIAA actions (who they have actively supported). (If they aren't vocally against it, they they are for it)

How about anything else? Something more public? Maybe trying to get a major media outlet to interview these bands about this decision? They are a bunch of cowards hiding behind the RIAA; the human faces behind the corporate mask. Our agressive response to this really should be in raising ire against these bands. Someone please tell me that I'm not hopelessly naive in thinking these bands can't possibly want actions like this to continue.

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (1)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394169)

Does anyone know of a way to directly impact these bands?

Stop buying music. As simple as that. If the artists don't bother being vocal about opposing tyrannical organizations such as the RIAA, then they tacitly approve of their actions. If the occasional band/artist does voice their objection to the RIAA, then by all means support them. But if they don't then we just have to consider them part of the RIAA gang.

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (1)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394129)

As you can get all these songs for 99Â on itunes $1.9m seems a little much. The other problem I have is that the prosecution only proved that they were able to download from the defendant. I don't agree that people should be able to take what they want, but I hate the RIAA because they've made a business model out of mocking our legal system and profiting from it.

Re:Protecting Artists? Artists to Blame. (1)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394287)

They should have subpoenaed the bands to testify since it was their music that was being infringed. It would have been very interesting to hear each band's statements about where they stand on having the music copied on the Internet. Say the wrong thing and they'll destroy their fan base.

Since this is supposed to be about compensating the artists, it would be interesting to have the bands testify on what percentage of these settlements they receive. How can it make sense to award $2M when the artists probably aren't going to see any of it?

Punitive damages should go to the US Treasury, actual damages should go to the victim.

time for a new job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393645)

I think this was part of the defense strategy. I think they wanted a huge dollar amount awarded to the RIAA. Perhaps to get public sympathy, or even challenge it on the basis of due process. Besides, how can any average individual pay $2 million?

Re:time for a new job (2, Insightful)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394023)

Doing so by waiving viable defenses is borderline legal malpractice.

It's excessive, but.... (1)

korekrash (853240) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393671)

The amount is excessive, she should be fined something like $100 a song. With the option of buying songs for around a buck...come on...quit rippin off the artists....How long is this dead horse going to be beat?

Why aren't all the people part of the RIAA in jail (2, Insightful)

HannethCom (585323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393727)

The RIAA purpose is to protect the artists.

For some strange reason it is run by the record companies which are the biggest offenders for ripping off the artists. I have not seen one case of the RIAA trying to protect the artists from the record companies. There is also ample proof of them ripping off the consumers, suing on behalf of someone who released their songs for free download, blatant lies and slander. Oddly enough most of the proof of the lies and slander you can find by reading the press releases then going to the studies that they provide on the RIAA site that does not support their press releases.

So my question is with them being so blatantly illegal, why aren't these guys all in jail?

Re:Why aren't all the people part of the RIAA in j (1)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393809)

That isn't a hard question to answer; they have a lot of money, and a lot of lawyers, and as such are not subject to the same law that you and I are subject to.

Re:Why aren't all the people part of the RIAA in j (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393821)

The RIAA purpose is to protect the artists.

Nope. That's what they say, but I doubt it's ever been true. That "I" in there stands for "industry". In this case, the acronym is completely accurate. The association serves the industry, not the artists.

So, what's the constitution have to say about it? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393747)

Amendment 8:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Courts have held that damages awarded in civil suits are not "fines". Was this case a criminal or civil process?

-jcr

Re:So, what's the constitution have to say about i (1)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393975)

Such rulings are abominations.

Re:So, what's the constitution have to say about i (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394173)

I agree. Part of the problem here is that some jurors go nuts when presented with the opportunity to award seven-figure damages, since it's more money than most of them will ever deal with in their lives.

-jcr

Re:So, what's the constitution have to say about i (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394217)

The 8th has been dead for a long while. The death knell was when the electric chair was ruled as not being 'unusual' because it was used in the USA, and therefore legal (it's okay to be cruel or unusual, apparently, just not both).

My opinion (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393761)

Just as somebody who really did not have any interest in this, and am quite willing to pay for music.

This is complete nonsense and will not even serve the RIAA's interests. This penalty is so far out of line that it is completely fantasy, the risk of being sued for millions of dollars is so abstract and impossible to prepare for that the logical thing to do is ignore it. Also even copying ONE song has in effect bankrupted you, so there is no financial incentive not to copy more.

If they really wanted to make a deterrent, a civil case where the person is fined about $50 per song would be much more effective.

Re:My opinion (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394139)

Downloading is not a violation of copyright. Making copyrighted material available for others to download is unauthorized distribution, and thus is a violation of copyright. If you confuse the two and think you have no right to download, then the RIAA has succeeded.

Precedant recently set by the Supremes (2, Informative)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393769)

Didn't the supreme's just set a precedent for excessive damage awards when they whacked the exxon valdez award a couples years back? Why not use that ratio as precedent for all such future damage awards?

Thomas-Aide? (5, Insightful)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393779)

Perhaps all those artists could do a benefit concert for Ms. Thomas and raise enough money to pay off the RIAA.

Re:Thomas-Aide? (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393977)

That won't fix the problem.

Here's the real costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393783)

24 songs
99 cents per song
100 leechers on P2P, per song

24 x $0.99 x 100 = $2376.

Still excessive, but not life-threatening.

Re:Here's the real costs (0, Flamebait)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394059)

Which is pretty much what they offered her before the dumb bitch thought a jury would not rule against her and decided to go to trial. She probably thought a "jury of her peers" would consist of the people on whatever internet forums she hung out on. The ones who, either before or after the fact, convinced her that there is absolutely nothing wrong with downloading music for free.

Hit the RIAA where it hurts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393819)

People,

Just stop buying products from the RIAA. Find a way to pay the artists directly ... This way, the artists will actually start to get some money.
As long as we fund the RIAA, these corrupt organizations will have the cash to hurt us all.

Cut out the middle man.

AC
PS F@ck the RIAA

Re:Hit the RIAA where it hurts (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394067)

A big part of the RIAA's revenue comes from coughups of settlement money.

Simply boycotting them won't be good enough.

Answers to All Three Tests (1)

Bryan Gividen (739949) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393841)

1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's actions
File sharing with the intent to avoid paying for a product or help others circumvent paying for a product is, at least to some degree, reprehensible. (I am assuming objectivity and being reasonable.) However, from the facts of this particular case, it doesn't seem that the act is so blatantly reprehensible that it warrants a life-sentence worth of monetary damages.

2) the disparity between the harm to the plaintiff and the punitive award
This seems huge to me. Though I don't have the facts on this case and might judge differently if I did, it seems that the RIAA will have an incredibly hard time showing that the damages they incurred are even one a hundredth of the punitive damages. The 24 songs this woman had available would have to have been WIDELY disseminated to reach that kind of number. It will be interesting to see what kind of evidence they produce to address this question.

3) the similarity or difference between the punitive award and civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable situations.
This is where the Eighth Amendment has tangential application. (None that takes direct legal effect, but still affects the approach that the courts' take.) This is obviously an incredibly excessive fine. Punitive damages, as the name obviously indicates, act to "punish" the individual for bad behavior. Two-million dollars as punishment for twenty-four files could very easily be considered excessive, egregious, unconscionable, or any other term for "whacked out" that I can think of.

reprehensibility (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394215)

If you don't understand the fact that Kazaa makes available for distribution to other people every file that you yourself download, then your actions are not morally reprehensible. Downloading is not infringement; unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material is.

The amount shoudn't be set by a stupid-ass jury! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393853)

Who the hell gave a jury of dumb-asses the authority to set the amount of the fine? What a bunch of ignorant incompetent couch potatoes!

I dont get it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393861)

How can they legally justify this fine when people who download the music, copy it unto disks and then sell it at car boot sales etc., only get a slap on the wrists if caught (for small quantities anyway- i.e. a dozen or so disks). Is the crime somehow worse if it's all done online?

Re:I dont get it... (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393931)

It's worse because you can distribute far more copies online, far more quickly, than you can physically distribute. That is the basis for the absurd award.

The flipside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393869)

Now that she's been sentenced to be an undischargeable bankrupt, is there actually anything more they can do to her in the civil courts? What's to stop her from ripping and sharing a hundred thousand songs from CDs at the library? What more can they actually do that they haven't, over a pissy 24 of them?

Re:The flipside (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394101)

in theory I suppose the RIAA could get an injunction, which would land her in prison were she to violate.

She's effectively attainted. All that debt is as good as a forfeiture to the crown.

YOUQ FAIL It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393907)

FrreBSD is already

How much of the $80,000 per song to the artist? (1)

MasterOfGoingFaster (922862) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393935)

Well, $1.92 million divided by 24 songs = $80,000 per song. I wonder what the artists received per song? I hope this triggers a review of the true costs and show how much the artists get.

I wonder if this might show that RIAA members are actually scamming the artists and don't deserve the damages rewarded.

Question for Lawyer types: If I buy an item from you for $1, then sell them for $5000 each, should damages be affected by the huge disparity is cost vs price?

As for me, I'll continue to boycott buying anything from Sony, etc. It is against my moral code to support companies that behave in such an evil fashion.

Re:How much of the $80,000 per song to the artist? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394353)

I wonder what the artists received per song?

They will get nothing from this, because the fine will not be paid. The labels, in contrast, will be able to negotiate a reasonable settlement and put $1.9m in the loss column on their next tax return. They will then pay tax on almost two million dollars less of their income. That, alone, is probably enough to fund a few cases like this...

Where do you get this business about the Sup.Ct.? (5, Informative)

NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393955)

I'm perplexed by the statement about the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's jurisprudence in the area of knocking down excessive "punitive awards" is well established, and would most assuredly lead to the RIAA's statutory damages theory being crushed. See amicus curiae brief [blogspot.com] , which summarizes and discusses the applicable authorities.

ahh the supreme court (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394189)

A bunch of out of touch idiots who have no real idea how society or technology works.

Enough, Give it up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28393961)

Maybe we should just stop buying their music all-together. The RIAA will not last too long if they make $0.00 because no one is buying something that they are not allowed legal rights to any way.

Re:Enough, Give it up. (1)

EvilToiletPaper (1226390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394185)

They'll just attribute the loss of revenue to 'increased file sharing' :P

Misapplication of the law (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28393983)

What happened to infringement needing to have some sort of commercial or otherwise monetary gain? P2P sharing is (generally) not for monetary gain. Regardless of whether it's right or wrong to do so, the intent of large damages is to discourage commercial copyright infringement, not to pick on the little people.

What a sad joke (3, Insightful)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394003)

What a sad joke the judicial system is.

Is that supposed to be "justice"? I think by anyone's definition that is just plain stupid.

Not to mention pointless. The fine might as well be for a Gajillion dollars, 'cause she ain't got that either.

Re:What a sad joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394155)

It's not a court of justice, it's a court of law.

One way Ms. Thomas-Rasset could pay for it (1)

sjonke (457707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394019)

Paint her legal team and sell them as new.

The system in France (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394043)

I know most feel the damages should be a fair price for the music but that system has no downside except for the mass downloaders. In France for example the fine for being caught hoping the turnstiles for the Metro trains is the price of a ticket. The end result is hardly anyone is fined and virtually everyone under the age of 25 hops the turnstiles rather than pay. The damages are laughable in this case which doesn't help their cause but the only way for the providers to survive is to make most people hesitate to download. Imagine shoplifting, yes I know all the digital arguments but say if you only had to pay for items you were caught taking and there was no jail time or record of the crime. How many people would shoplift? The numbers are high already so the numbers would explode and the stores would go out of business over night. The damages need to be more reasonable but if there's nothing punitive then there's no deterrent.

Re:The system in France (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394253)

Fine. Make it comparable to a shoplifting first offense.

That said. The RIAA should not be able to use the threat of megabuck jury
awards in order to extort easy settlements.

Irrelevant to Due Process (4, Interesting)

GrifterCC (673360) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394107)

I am a lawyer.

The EFF is going to run out of rope really fast. BMW v. Gore said it was about factors, but it was really about notice. Could BMW really expect such a dramatically large punitive-damages award? Maybe not, for the conduct alleged. Here, legally speaking, Jammie had notice: there was a statute putting her on notice of the fact that a jury could award these damages if it wanted.

Anyway, with the Court's current composition, arguing that BMW v. Gore should be expanded to statutory damages is a non-starter. That opinion barely made it through as it was. Just look at the dissents--Ginsberg, joined by Rehnquist? The Court's only gotten more government-friendly since then.

I don't know much adjudicatory criminal procedure; maybe the 8th Amendment is the way to go.

Cruel and Unusual (4, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394141)

Don't you USians have that little clause that prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment"? 1.9M for an average person is their whole life earnings. She could have stole a CD from a store with 24 songs on it and got a slap on the wrist. What makes it so different that it is done on a computer? This cruel punishment should also apply to the people down there who take a pee in the bushes on their way home from the bar and are branded "sex-offenders" for the rest of their life. The US is hysterical and real people are being burnt as witches.

WTF is wrong with you people!!!! (3, Insightful)

sherpajohn (113531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394147)

Trillions in bailouts to banks that wasted the untold fortunes of the average person's retirement funds in vain attempts they knew should have failed to make the rich beyond need bankers even more fucking rich, and the courts have a audacity to award the perveyors of packaged pop poop almost $100k per song shared? You people are totally fucked in the head. If it gets like this in Canada I am leaving - but where can I go that's not that inasane? Jeebus jumpin jehosiphat!

YOU FAIL It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28394165)

Appeal (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394197)

My question is, "Was this case set up for an appeal?" It seems interesting that the defense made a very simple case at trial,did not oppose bad evidence with vigor and then didn't strenuously go after the jury instructions, which seemed to be missing quite a bit of important details. Almost was like the battle was forfeit to win the war at a later date.

Would be interesting to get a few attorneys to comment...

What The Fuck Country (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394231)

1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's actions

Reprehensibility? That's sure to be objectively defined and fairly applied. Is it illegal to be reprehensible now?

2) the disparity between the harm to the plaintiff and the punitive award

Seems to me that this difference should always be $0.

3) the similarity or difference between the punitive award and civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable situations.

We have these things separated out for a reason.

Limit to trebel damages and use criminal courts (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394283)

Limit the civil awards in cases like these - copying widely sold information in this case a song - should be limited to 3 times the typical sale price.

If the we as a society determine that the "crime" of copyright infringement is so severe that it requires tougher sanctions, then make willful infringement a criminal offense.

This will do two things:

1) it will give the defendants many more rights and raise the bar to prosecution
2) it will gain more public attention and the people will rise up and demand that low-level infringement be decriminalized. Unless of course society does think it should be a crime.

In any case, civil damages beyond actual damages shouldn't be much higher than 3x.

Texas civil damages capped. (5, Insightful)

kybred (795293) | more than 5 years ago | (#28394327)

Counterpoint this $1.9 million judgement to this [dallasnews.com] :

Jabari, a 300-pound gorilla, escaped from his enclosure and went on an angry rampage through the zoo. Police shot and killed him on the zoo grounds, but not before he seriously injured Reichert, Heard and 3-year-old Rivers Heard.

The Dallas City Council, which oversees the zoo, is scheduled to approve a $500,000 financial settlement with Heard and Reichert during a special meeting Friday at City Hall. The money is meant to compensate the women and their children for their physical injuries and emotional trauma.

State law caps civil damage awards against a city government at $500,000.

So the RIAA gets nearly $2 Million, while these people with real physical and emotional injuries get 25% of that.

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