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
Case and point is the organization’s high profile battle with Jammie
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
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
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
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
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.