Print 36 comment(s) - last by maugrimtr.. on Dec 17 at 10:27 AM

The consul argues the defendant's due process rights were violated

Could the highest profile music piracy case to be brought against an individual in the U.S. be headed to The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)? That's the outcome lawyers for working mom Jammie Thomas-Rasset are hoping for.

The defendant's legal team has filed a petition for certiorari claiming that their client's right to due process has been violated.  The case has been kicked around the courts for some time.

Ms. Thomas-Rasset first lost in a June 2009 jury verdict, with the jury deciding on a $1.92M USD fine, arguing that lawyers for music labels like Sony Corp.'s (TYO:6758) BMG and their trade group the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has sufficiently proved that the working mom had willfully-infringed on 24 songs.

After the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the verdict, the matter seemed settled, setting a rather draconian precedent.  But a judge cut the fine to a mere $54,000 USD.

Then it was deja vu all over again -- the case went to retrial, a jury found Ms. Thomas-Rasset guilty of another huge fine ($1.5M USD, this time), and then the judge yet again bumped the fine to $54,000 USD.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset
Jammie Thomas-Rasset (left) [Image Source: joonbug]

Most recently the RIAA, et al. appealed the reduction, and the fine was bumped back slightly to $222,000 USD, where it currently sits.  That appeal prompted Ms. Thomas-Rasset's lawyers to ask the SCOTUS to hear the case.

The defendant's lawyers cite State Farm v. Campbell, BMW v. Gore, and St. Louis I.M. & S. Railway Co. v. Williams as relevant cases.  These cases all involved the plaintiff seeking a large amount of punitive damages (for example Dr. Ira Gore sued BMW and initially won $4M USD in punitive damages after BMW sold him a repainted vehicle and claimed it was new).  In each case the SCOTUS ruled that there should be reasonable limits, based on the scope of the civil offense, to punitive damages.

The RIAA and big media backers are estimated to have spent over $3M USD on the case; Ms. Thomas-Rasset has received much of her legal services and fees paid for via donations.

Source: RIAA v. The People

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truly asinine
By Shadowself on 12/13/2012 12:42:28 PM , Rating: 5
Even $54k is truly asinine.

If the RIAA had settled for $7,128 (1,000 times the profit they would have gotten if she had bought the songs from a major online store) then this would have been over back in early 2009.

$54k is over 7,500 times lost profits.

Yes, she should have properly purchased the songs. Yes, she should pay restitution ($7.13 USD). Yes, she should pay some level of punitive damages.

But this lunacy is beyond anything imaginable by anyone other than those courts, those juries and the RIAA. For the life of me I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of those jurors or those judges.

RE: truly asinine
By ClownPuncher on 12/13/2012 2:00:58 PM , Rating: 5
For the life of me I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of those jurors or those judges.

Circus music.

RE: truly asinine
By amanojaku on 12/13/2012 2:05:48 PM , Rating: 5
Then what are you waiting for? Punch those clowns!!!

RE: truly asinine
By maugrimtr on 12/17/2012 10:27:14 AM , Rating: 2
I believe it's called The Law. Unfortunately, judges and juries do not have the luxury of ignoring legislation and precedent, though a judge knocking down the award to $54k shows we can have some faith in there being a JUSTICE system. Beyond that, it's up to SCOTUS to set new or even overturn old precedents as the times demand. And damn those who have taken to referring this as "activism". Judges are supposed to set precedent not lock it in stone for all time.

RE: truly asinine
By ilt24 on 12/13/2012 3:48:56 PM , Rating: 1
For the life of me I cannot imagine what was going through the minds of those jurors or those judges.

A view into the Judges mind:

Judge Davis, despite strong criticism of the damage award, had no kind words for Thomas-Rasset. He noted that "Thomas-Rasset’s refusal to accept responsibility for her actions and her decision to concoct a new theory of the infringement casting possible blame on her children and ex-boyfriend for her actions demonstrate a refusal to accept responsibility and raise the need for strong deterrence." The judge even concluded that she "lied on the witness stand by denying responsibility for her infringing acts and, instead, blamed others, including her children, for her actions."

As for the jurors, I guess they didn't like being lied to.

If the RIAA had settled for $7,128 (1,000 times the profit they would have gotten if she had bought the songs from a major online store) then this would have been over back in early 2009.

The original request from the RIAA before going near a court was for somewhere between $3000 and $5000, she decided to go to court.

RE: truly asinine
By ComputerJuice on 12/13/2012 4:10:02 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, but...

Honestly what I do not understand is why if you physically steal something you pay less than if you "steal" something digital. A court settlement fee (in my area) for minor theft is something like a $500 fine plus 2x the amount of the stolen item. I believe that the fine is split 50/50 between the court and the victim with the 2x award being handed to the victim. So, In her case it would be like $550-ish & a mark on her record. I don't blame her for going to court when an album worth of material digitally is at $.99 per song $24. You get served a random piece of mail asking for $5000... Seems like BS to me. If the extortionists that went after her would have sent a fine for a rational amount they would have been paid. My personal feelings about extortion aside... if they were to set theses "fines" (should be called licensing fee) to a reasonable, and I mean an amount less than it would conceivably cost to fight it in court, they would probably would just get paid by the bulk of "the infringing". It would still be BS in my opinion, but would likely net big content some coin as opposed to the legal hole they seem to keep throwing money into. I guess I'm glad it has gone the way it has... provided the supreme court rules in a manner that is fair.

RE: truly asinine
By ilt24 on 12/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: truly asinine
By ComputerJuice on 12/14/2012 1:02:29 AM , Rating: 2
I admit I am not 100% clear as to what exactly she did do...
I suppose it matters more if did she ripped a cd and put it up on a file share. I thought she downloaded the songs and left them in a shared folder. Viewed from one angle its the same, from another its different. One is "infringement", the other is essentially counterfeiting. Regardless, 50k - 1.5 mil still seems way beyond excessive.

RE: truly asinine
By drlumen on 12/14/2012 7:28:33 PM , Rating: 2
I have to admit that the more I hear about this case the less I care about this broad. I am not fan of big media and for anyone else I would agree that $54k is too much.

However, I really think if they had offered her a deal for $75 she would have tried to find some excuse to not pay it.

Given Judge Davis' quote, I'm gonna have to agree with him on this one.

RE: truly asinine
By KITH on 12/13/2012 5:20:31 PM , Rating: 2
Not trying to suggest the damages are accurate here but she is being fined not for downloading the music but for sharing/uploading it.

RE: truly asinine
By MScrip on 12/13/2012 6:35:28 PM , Rating: 2
That's true... and this is where the case falls apart in my opinion.

The court knows for a FACT that she downloaded those 24 songs.

But they have ZERO EVIDENCE how many times those songs were uploaded (if any)

Did those songs get uploaded a million times to get the $1,000,000 fine? Did the courts just guess?

RE: truly asinine
By Trisped on 12/13/2012 7:00:27 PM , Rating: 2
But they have ZERO EVIDENCE how many times those songs were uploaded (if any)
More like we have zero evidence. I expect that there is plenty of forensic and statistical evidence to give at least an order of magnitude (1, 10, 100, 1000, 100000, more) reference. While we may not have that information I am sure the courts do.

RE: truly asinine
By MScrip on 12/13/2012 10:02:13 PM , Rating: 2
We know tons about this case... it's been reported on for the last 7 years.

We know the number of songs she was caught infringing upon... the names of those songs... each and every ruling and all the damages against her... etc.

Why would they keep any actual proof a secret? Isn't that the whole point... finding the truth?

I'm not doubting that Jammie could have shared songs with millions of other people. That's precisely how Kazaa works.

What I'm asking is if the courts knew exactly how many computers were connected to Jammie's computer at any given time... and how many songs were actually transferred from her computer.

Basically... did she or didn't she?

I find it hard to believe that you can be found guilty of something you may or may not have done...

RE: truly asinine
By Trisped on 12/13/2012 11:06:24 PM , Rating: 2
Right, we do not have the evidence, hopefully the court does.

RE: truly asinine
By mlambert890 on 12/15/2012 12:30:52 AM , Rating: 2
Evidence is shared in a courtroom. It isnt trumpeted to the public. What you "know" about this case is merely what the media has reported which is merely a *version* of what was made public.

Unless you sat in the courtroom or read the courtroom transcript, you honestly don't know anything about the case.

The "truth" is found *in the court*. The court is not the court of public opinion. Its the courtroom. If you had a legal battle in front of you, you wouldnt want sensitive evidence that might be deeply personal shared with every moron blog commenter, so count this as a *good* part of "the system".

WIth all of the information on the web, and all of the time people spend on the web reading about and commenting on things, its amazing how few people do a bit more research to just understand how things like the court system work.

RE: truly asinine
By Jeffk464 on 12/16/2012 11:34:10 PM , Rating: 2
Not trying to suggest the damages are accurate here but she is being fined not for downloading the music but for sharing/uploading it.

Its pretty much the same thing. back in the hay day of music piracy when non-techy people like this woman were downloading everything was just set up as share by default. I don't think she probably thought about the fact that her computer was pirating the music out to a ton of people. Anyways people should really be pissed off at the media companies for this level of vindictiveness. I say don't buy music period, I'm not saying steal it but use alternative services like pandora. If you want to support artists go to live events this is where they make their money anyways.

RE: truly asinine
By Trisped on 12/13/2012 6:03:16 PM , Rating: 2
In the end the jury found Jammie Thomas guilty of sharing 24 songs
It is not the price of one song, but the price of 24 songs given/shared to an untold number of individuals plus the cost of recouping the damages.

RE: truly asinine
By MScrip on 12/13/2012 6:36:32 PM , Rating: 3
I'd love to see the proof that those songs were shared a million times...

RE: truly asinine
By Trisped on 12/13/2012 6:56:57 PM , Rating: 2
I'd love to see the proof that those songs were shared a million times...
Figuring a modest $1000 recovery fee for each shared song (which would help cover finding and prosecuting criminals) she would only have to have shared all the song 1000 times to be eligible for a 2.4 million dollar fine. Back in the hey day of sharing songs, I expect you could easily share a popular song well over a thousand times.

Of course we do not know how many times the songs were actually shared, so we cannot say for sure either way.

RE: truly asinine
By marvdmartian on 12/14/2012 7:44:01 AM , Rating: 2
The way I understand it, though, is that the RIAA (and MPAA) are concerned less with you downloading the music (or movies), and more with you SHARING it. Unfortunately, with most file sharing networks, it's set up so you download as well as share with others what you've already downloaded. And if you're not a savvy computer user, and don't know how to tweak your file sharing program settings, you can continue to share that file even after you've completed the download, possibly without ever knowing you're doing so.

But even taking that into account, your figure of 1000 times the cost of the songs should well take into account the number of people that this woman could have likely shared the data with (and does a partial file share count evenly with a full one?), and should more than cover her damage.

The rest of that fine is nothing more than pure greed, IMHO.

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