A few years ago, Sacramento readers probably heard about the Recording Industry Association of America going after people who were violating copyrights by sharing music on peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa and Napster.
Although 18,000 people were sued for copyright infringement by the RIAA between 2003 and 2008, only a few of those cases went to trial, as opposed to settling out of court. One such case was that of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a Minnesota woman who committed copyright infringement by sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.
Thomas-Rasset was sued by the RIAA in 2006 and lost her case in 2007. Damages were first set at $222,0000, which represents $9,250 per song, but that verdict was thrown out because faulty instructions were given to the jury.
Thomas-Rasset also lost her second trial and this time, damages were set at $1.92 million. However, the court found that amount "shocking" and lowered it to $54,000.
The RIAA, however, appealed and last week, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the original $222,000 verdict. The three-judge panel said the verdict was not so oppressive or unreasonable that it violated the Constitution's due process protection, which was what Thomas-Rasset's lawyer had argued.
Thomas-Rasset's attorney said the two will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now, infringing on copyrights is wrong. Copyright protection exists for a reason. However, a $222,000 verdict for downloading 24 songs has struck some people as excessive.
What are your thoughts on this issue? While we can't have people violating copyrights, extremely harsh punishments for non-violent, unlawful activity are not terribly popular in many sectors of society.
Source: Reuters, "US appeals court raises damages award in music piracy case," Terry Baynes, Sept. 11, 2012