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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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$54,000 is still too much
By MrTeal on 7/25/2011 11:27:23 AM , Rating: 5
A first time offender could shoplift a backpack full of 100 CDs and get off with community service and a $1000 fine. Granted this is a civil case and not a criminal one, so she won't get a criminal record from it, but the fine still seems excessive.

The other disturbing aspect of this case is putting a dollar value on every song shared. 24 songs might make for a $50,000 fine that one person might be able to pay off, but if ~$2000 per track becomes a precedent, it allows the RIAA to just sue for more counts. Share a couple dozen albums and a person could still be looking at $500,000; more than most companies would get for willfully dumping toxic chemicals into a river.




RE: $54,000 is still too much
By AssBall on 7/25/2011 11:36:21 AM , Rating: 3
I agree. And how is a mother of 4 gonna pay 54k? It is still ridiculous.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Gzus666 on 7/25/2011 12:20:05 PM , Rating: 2
If she is smart, she will start a giant smear campaign based on a sob story about her kids and not having enough money to pay for them now. She could demonize them to the point of them having to back down if she played her cards right. Hell, she might come out with a donation from them for the children.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Natch on 7/25/2011 2:08:49 PM , Rating: 4
Or, more likely, now she can afford to sell the rights to her story for a million, and keep most of it (instead of handing it over to the RIAA idiots).


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Samus on 7/26/2011 11:48:07 AM , Rating: 1
I made some expensive mistakes as a kid, but if I downloaded music that cost my parents $54,000 dollars, they'd probably have put me up for adoption!


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By fatedtodie on 7/25/11, Rating: -1
RE: $54,000 is still too much
By AssBall on 7/25/2011 12:50:58 PM , Rating: 3
Karma? Since when does the US justice system use Karma?

Here's a fun excersize, match these actual crimes with the punishment that fits them:

1: Several premeditated counts of murder and attempted murder of a governor.
2: Drown your own child
3: DUI-Physical Control
4: share music with people

A: 5 years of legal intimidation, thousands in fees, and a 54,000 fine.
B: Months in Jail, $1000 fine, 2 years parole, pay it yourself fees for unnecessary rehabilitation programs, S21 insurance, 1 year pay it yourself ignition override switch, semi unemployable for 7 years.
C: ??? nothing/fine for obstruction of justice.
D: 3 free healthful meals a day in a clean and free establishment (asylum) with free top notch medical treatment.

Now if you still think our justice system makes sense, you must be a lawyer...

ANS: 1D, 2C, 3B, 4A


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By YashBudini on 7/25/2011 1:02:40 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
D: 3 free healthful meals a day in a clean and free establishment (asylum) with free top notch medical treatment.

And what about that bar of soap you dropped in the shower? You make it sound like a walk in the park, and yet people routinely make deals for less jail time. What are those people? Extra stupid? There's a reason there's a difference between jail and prison. Perhaps you should educate yourself about them.

Top notch medical car? Ever see the prisoners with Alzheimers, dementia, or mental health problems? Go ahead and link a prison that has top notch care there, if you can find a single one.

What numbers of prisoners are raped everyday in a prison. Guess who pays extra for all those crimes?


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By AssBall on 7/25/2011 2:19:41 PM , Rating: 2
You completely miss the point once again, Yash.

Loughner pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. By the time they get around to sentencing him and appeals, etc, he will have had 10 years of mental care in a state facility, not a prison.

And yes I know the difference between a mental facility, a jail, and a prison, and you have seen way too many movies.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By YashBudini on 7/25/2011 7:30:41 PM , Rating: 2
I addressed only the point I quoted. You're the one who missed that.

If I was off topic then so were you with your original remarks.

Please continue to piss upwind if you must.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By AssBall on 7/25/2011 10:43:43 PM , Rating: 2
All you addressed was some weird infatuation you have with rape. Kinda weird, bro.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By YashBudini on 7/25/2011 11:48:59 PM , Rating: 3
I addressed prison life, including the wonderful health care you mentioned.

Since you narrowed the scope of the remarks considerably you should be asking yourself about weird infatuations with rape. Kinda works with your name though.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Jeffk464 on 7/26/2011 12:04:37 AM , Rating: 2
He does appear to be a little nutty.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Reclaimer77 on 7/25/2011 4:47:26 PM , Rating: 1
Lol Yash, do you even know what the discussion is about that you're arguing on? It doesn't seem like you get the point...


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By fatedtodie on 7/26/2011 5:56:42 AM , Rating: 1
Did you focus on 1 word of my post and ignore the rest?

She was offered to pay 1800 bucks for the 2400 songs she was illegally violating the license agreement of.

That is less than 1 dollar per song she was distributing.

She chose to fight it, and the law says the maximum $$ as a TON higher. The fact she only has to pay 54k is generous.

Get off your high horse and read the post before commenting please.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By ppardee on 7/25/2011 12:58:26 PM , Rating: 3
Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Even $54,000 is excessive considering the value of the 24 songs. That is 2,250 times the accepted market value of the products "stolen". This is the equivalent of being fined $64,000,000 for stealing an average new car.

The justice system cannot be allowed to be used for intimidation or bullying, regardless of how much you want it to be.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Solandri on 7/25/2011 2:54:01 PM , Rating: 2
Compare to what the CRIA (the RIAA's equivalent in Canada) paid to settle a copyright infringement suit there. $50 million for violating copyright on 300,000 songs, or $167 per work. By that metric, Ms. Thomas-Rasset's fine should have been $4,000.
http://business.financialpost.com/2011/05/30/judge...

To give you an idea how ridiculous the $150,000 per infringement limit specified by copyright law is in these cases, back around 2002 I went through the RIAA's own stats on their website (which they don't provide anymore). I took their worldwide revenue, and divided it by the number of song titles. Their revenue came out to less than $150k per title. In other words, it's potentially more profitable for the RIAA to sue people for copyright infringement, than it is for them to sell the songs on the market. If that isn't the definition of excessive, I don't know what is.

The law badly, badly needs to distinguish between individuals copying for self-gratification, vs. commercial copying for profit or on behalf of others. The $150k limit is supposed to be used against companies pumping out bootleg CDs of popular hits, not against unwed single mothers downloading some songs to listen to.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By fatedtodie on 7/26/2011 5:59:19 AM , Rating: 1
So is less than 1 dollar per song she was illegally pushing to the internet excessive? because that was what she FOUGHT against.

Read the comment, then post a reply, don't read just a few words.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By drycrust3 on 7/25/2011 12:15:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Share a couple dozen albums and a person could still be looking at $500,000; more than most companies would get for willfully dumping toxic chemicals into a river.

I agree. It seems pointless to me to sue a person for an amount of money they don't have and won't have. Even with the $54000 it is quite possible you won't have that sort of money, then you have to add to that your own legal expenses, and if you loose then you have to add to that the legal expenses of the claimant, and the whole thing becomes a sick joke.
All you will do is destroy the motivation to get out and work. Why should this guy go out and work when he can stay home and live off charity? From his own perspective it makes no difference, either way he has no money and won't for most of his life. His parents didn't bring him up to do this, and the government didn't pay for his education for that to happen either. The people of America invested in him so he could become an asset to their community, not be forced by the RIAA et al into being a liability. He would be better off running away to somewhere the RIAA can't find him or touch him, and then start building his life all over again.
The idea that people are born "free and equal" is sort of meaningless if you place an impossible financial burden on them at an early age.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By ilt24 on 7/25/2011 7:12:30 PM , Rating: 2
I have absolutely no sympathy for this woman. The RRIA originally asked her to stop sharing music and pay around $3000 for damages. While I imagine she did stop share music as soon as she got the letter, she decided to go to court. In court she lied about sharing any music and when found to be lying she then tried to blame her kids and other family members...what a nice mom.

As far as a criminal record, she is lucky they didn't bring her up on perjury charges.


RE: $54,000 is still too much
By Jeffk464 on 7/26/2011 12:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure she is judgment proof, fine her all you want. They wont see a dime.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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