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The ruling continues a proud tradition of the RIAA to blow the media industry's money, writing checks to lawyers and its small staff, while earning little in damages from its legal crusades.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset a Native American mother of four in Minnesota may finally be able to leave the world of lawsuits behind her, after a judge handed her a reduced fine of $54,000 USD for sharing 24 songs.  (Source: joonbug)

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis called the previous $1.5M USD verdict "appalling", "unreasonable", and "oppressive" in his ruling.  (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)
The media industry's crusade against filesharers is a costly one

Even as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) can cheer the facts that the U.S. government has proposed to make illegal streaming a felony, and that major internet service providers in America have agreed to adopt a "six strikes" plan to police users, the organization continues to hemorrhage money in its eternal battle against piracy.

Case and point is the organization’s high profile battle with Jammie Thomas-Rasset [1][2], who endured three trials for sharing (stealing and making available) 24 songs (approximately two CDs worth of music) with defunct peer-to-peer client Kazaa.  In what may be the final chapter in the case U.S. District Judge Michael Davis has slashed the award from an astounding $1.5M USD, to $54,000 USD (of course this has happened before).

Judge Davis called the original award "appalling" and abusive.  He writes [Scribd]:

The Court concludes that an award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use is appalling. Such an award is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable.

He says the new award is substantial and still very punitive, writing:

In this particular case, involving a first-time willful, consumer infringer of limited means who committed illegal song file-sharing for her own personal use, an award of $2,250 per song, for a total award of $54,000, is the maximum award consistent with due process.

This reduced award is punitive and substantial. It acts as a potent deterrent.

The ruling is significant as the RIAA hired eight high profile law teams [source; Scribd] (far more than Jammie Thomas-Rasset could afford) to represent it over the course of the three trials.  Assuming at least one full time lawyer, one can draw an estimate from Ms. Thomas-Rasset's lawyer who claimed to be owed $130,000 USD in unpaid legal expenses for the case.

Using a mean estimate of $150,000 per case, per law team, the case likely cost the RIAA close to $3M USD -- 55 times what it would eventually be awarded [Ed. - Note: This is an estimate based on previously published data.  The RIAA has never published, and likely will never publish legal fees in this case, for obvious reasons.].  

That sum isn't unusual, though -- it's roughly with 2.3 percent return on its "investment" the media industry paid between 2006 and 2008 in direct legal fees.

That's not to say the RIAA hasn't been lucrative for some.  While the organization only has 107 employees [source; Scribd], 12 employees made over $200,000 USD in direct salary (and tens of thousands more in other pay) and the organization paid $14M USD, in total to its staff.  

And the good times for RIAA staffers and affiliates weren't merely limited to the healthy pay -- some have ascended to positions of power, such as lawyer Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who recently became President Barack Obama's solicitor general.  Mr. Verrilli had been one of the lawyers on the RIAA retainer in both the Thomas-Rasset case and the high profile Sony BMG v. Joel Tenenbaum case.

Meanwhile, the recording industry has been on the hook for not only the massive legal fees, sweet salaries -- it's also poured millions it paid in lobbying federal and state politicians to try to push its agenda.

And remember that new "six-strikes" rule?  It still has to pay (much to its chagrin) to collect the list of infringing user IPs.  In short the (perhaps) final ruling in the Capitol v. Thomas case is a fair representation of the state of piracy policing overall -- big media is losing tens of millions of dollars, while the RIAA and its attorney's happily take a fair cut of that money to their bank.

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Bill Breakdown
By Mitch101 on 7/25/2011 10:51:06 AM , Rating: 1
Id like to read the cost breakdown on why it cost so much.

Im sure they make more than 3 million a day in music sales so to lose a days pay to instill fear in file sharers is probably a small price to pay so they aren't going away any time soon and if they added a penny to the cost of every song downloaded they would recoup the cost in no time at all.

What needs to be investigated is the RIAA methods of identifying the file sharer. If they are bypassing ones firewall and security measures on a persons computer to identify the individual then this is no different than breaking into someones home looking for reasons to sue someone without a search warrant.

Really just get a Zune pass and move on.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By JasonMick on 7/25/2011 10:59:29 AM , Rating: 4
Id like to read the cost breakdown on why it cost so much.

Again, like I said, my figure was an estimate, based on past reported costs in the case.

If you've ever been involved with anything legal related, you realize how much attorney fees are in billable hours. It adds up fast.

When you have eight high profile law firms representing you (and likely with a blank check to bill whatever they want) in three different cases and several appeals process, you get a very big expense.

It would not surprise me if my estimate is too conservative. They clearly spent a LOT of money here. Their tax records show their significant legal expenditures (which are grossly in excess of my estimate, but cover numerous efforts, including threat letters, etc.).

What needs to be investigated is the RIAA methods of identifying the file sharer. If they are bypassing ones firewall and security measures on a persons computer to identify the individual then this is no different than breaking into someones home looking for reasons to sue someone without a search warrant.

In the Thomas-Rasset case, the RIAA's approach was well documented. It collected a list of content a particular IP was using and then used the fact that the Kazaa username associated with that IP was used by Ms. Thomas-Rasset on other services.

It seems pretty clear Ms. Thomas-Rasset did infringe the content, but the questions are:
a) Did the punishment fit the crime?
b) Was the amount spent worth it to the record labels?

Really just get a Zune pass and move on.
Zune pass is great -- my friend had it and we used to chill and listen to stuff on it! A lot of stuff I like is unfortunately not on it, though, when I last checked. Of course, a fair share of my favorite music is obscure independent music, so that's to be expected, I suppose.

I always try to buy music direct from musicians at concerts -- that way they get more of the money.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By tastyratz on 7/25/2011 11:07:11 AM , Rating: 2
Extrapolating the fees in that way also leads me to be their cost was even higher. Chances are the single mom in the ghetto just did not afford the same legal council as the riaa which most likely had both a higher billable rate and more man hours.

The idea of this crappy case was not to get 54k from her or even anything at all, it was the high profile killshot they wanted to set precedence for future cases. I am just glad to see it lowered to the 54k as it is not some astronomical life crippling unattainable figure. I am not saying i am glad to see 54k at all but at least they are on planet earth now.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By Mitch101 on 7/25/2011 11:20:26 AM , Rating: 2
Unsure of her legal fees associated if any with this and her personal time lost yadda, yadda, yadda I wouldn't be surprised if she files chapter 11 or 13 and they get nothing from her but I agree on your killshot theory.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By Mitch101 on 7/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: Bill Breakdown
By JasonMick on 7/25/2011 11:35:09 AM , Rating: 1
U Mad Bro? I was just curious not questioning your estimate.

No, it's fine. Just thought I'd shorten my explanation from the article, in case anyone was just skimming the text.

And I'm having a good morning (almost afternoon!), thanks!

RE: Bill Breakdown
By Mitch101 on 7/25/2011 11:59:07 AM , Rating: 2
No prob. Have a great day.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By Snow01 on 7/25/2011 2:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
Case in point. Not case and point. Sorry, I know that's nitpicking, but if it keeps the same mistake from reappearing, I'm ok with that.

Otherwise, a decent post. Reading this stuff just makes me scratch my head. One would think the music industry execs would eventually realize that throwing money at the piracy problem isn't going to stem the tide. But whatever, I guess. It's just too bad they're throwing away all that money on this rather than finding and promoting more new talent.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By BZDTemp on 7/25/2011 11:07:05 AM , Rating: 2
They just look at the IP address and log when then the ISP can tell them which subscriber had said IP the address at the time.

This is why some people have been targeted even though they have done nothing wrong and in fact someone else did the deed abusing the internet connection of the person targeted.

I've read about people found innocent in court because the Industry mobsters could not prove who did the file sharing because of an open wireless network. Some see this as a viable legal defense plan and have now made a point to run an open wireless connection - after all you're must be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

If you're sitting on a LAN that does not log who get's what internal IP then I think the RIAA is gonna have a very hard time suing anyone on that LAN with success (unless they can go for whomever operates the network).

RE: Bill Breakdown
By fic2 on 7/25/2011 11:51:53 AM , Rating: 3
after all you're must be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

That is only in criminal court. Civil court has a much lower standard. Look at OJ - not guilty in criminal court, but got hit in civil court.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By FlyBri on 7/25/2011 12:09:12 PM , Rating: 2
Using an open wireless connection as a defense is becoming less and less a viable option. It's becoming more widely accepted that if you do not have a secured, password protected wireless network, it's ultimately your fault, and anything illegal that happens on an unsecured network will also be considered your least to some extent.

If your wireless network was password protected though, and someone hacked it, you would then not be liable.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By mindless1 on 7/25/2011 3:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
If your network was password proteced and hacked, you would have to have a reputable 3rd party document that at the time it happened, which nobody is going to do because they receive their John Doe letter from the ISP or RIAA lawyers, months later.

Thus, what you wrote is theoretically true but it's practically improbable that any consumer of ISP services would get out of a charge with this argument.

Granted, some people do have firewalls, logging of access that persists for months but the vast majority of people with personal wifi don't.

RE: Bill Breakdown
By mindless1 on 7/25/2011 9:13:00 PM , Rating: 2
... and if you hand the court a log that you had control over, it'd be easy for anyone to just insert a fake unauthorized access entry.

Then again, this is essentially what the firms tracking the infringers are doing, just handing over a logged # to an ISP then court, and having it taken as "proof", AFAIK.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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