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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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RE: typo
By MZperX on 12/13/2012 1:02:10 PM , Rating: 3
True, but it shouldn't be a typo. A judgment of $222 sounds about right for 24 songs. Since songs in most cases can be had for $0.99 each, that would be $8.26 more per song than the typical purchase price. That's a penalty of 834% over the original price, only a small portion of which could be claimed as lost profit by the RIAA anyway. So, in terms of lost profit the percentage of penalty would be even greater. These highway robberies disguised as lawsuits need to be jury nullified .


RE: typo
By twhittet on 12/13/2012 2:42:21 PM , Rating: 2
Does the jury decide the punishment though, or the judge? I'm really asking - I thought the judge did it.

If that's the case - I would probably also find the defendant guilty, but then be powerless to do anything about the unfair punishment that is given out after the fact.


RE: typo
By RufusM on 12/13/2012 3:57:33 PM , Rating: 2
The original judgement was $1.92M; awarded by a jury no less. Through the various appeals judges reduced the amount eventually to $222K.

I understand what punitive damages are for, but this seems very excessive. I can even see a heftier fine if she was distributing them for profit. She was caught distributing them to people who would not have likely purchased them in the first place so the amounts don't add up.

The media really has these fines blown up out of proportion in the current laws. The fines are designed for large scale rackets who might cheat the rightful owners by selling unofficial copies, costing the content owners millions. If one person copies a song/movie and gives it to another person to listen/view I don't think there needs to be a massive fine bankrupting that person for life.


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