Skip to comments.$1.5 million ruling for 24 downloads
Posted on 11/05/2010 9:27:54 PM PDT by JoeProBono
MINNEAPOLIS, - A Minnesota mother was ordered by a jury to pay $1.5 million to the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally downloading and sharing 24 songs.
Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay the sum, $62,500 for each illegally downloaded song, by a Minneapolis court after two previous convictions were thrown out on appeal, the New York Daily News reported Friday.
Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $222,000 following a 2007 trial but the decision was declared a mistrial upon appeal.
She was next ordered to pay $1.92 million in a June 2009 trial, but the judge lowered the amount to $54,000. The RIAA offered to settle for $25 million, but Thomas-Rasset instead appealed the decision and ended up on trial a third time.
Good luck collecting $.50 from her....
I’m not for illegal downloads, but it’s this kind of ridiculous overreach that is damaging, not downloading 24 songs. Let the punishment fit the crime, huh?
That we have this kind of “justice” when we blithely allow illegal aliens to invade the country and the system just shrugs says so much about the state we’re in.
I think this is something that the new GOP congress should take a look at. I know stealing is against law and I do not need a lecture on copyrights. However, this unreasonable.
The copyright laws are ridiculous. The length of time for an artist, writer, or composer to collect royalties should be the same length of time that inventors have for a patent: 17 years.
After that, anyone can own the song.
WTF was the jury thinking?
Exactly, damage awards ought to have some relationship to actual damages.
Right. How about giving that judgement to the site where she got the songs, not to a poor Mom who is just trying to save a buck.
The RIAA just had to make an example of her and did it beautifully. Will this stop downloads? NO.
Aren’t legal downloads pretty ceap these days? Isn’t price $0.99 per track these days?
It is like that. And I am sure she wasn’t downloading 17 year old songs!
How about a lecture on smaller government and the ills of a nanny state?
ceap = cheap
I was thinking the same thing! Where did they get this jury? I know that every single one of them has gotten a movie or song illegally at some point in their lives! I can not believe they would do this to another person!
Especially since sites have been shut down over this in the past. It’s like suing a user and leaving the drug dealer on the street. I mean, 24 songs? How many musicians is she putting out on the street?
Yep they are. Exactly what I use to pay for a top ten 45 record in 1973!
The judgment is ridiculous, but it isn’t the downloading, it’s the uploading. She made the songs available for any number of other people to download from her computer.
News stories always say people were clipped for downloading, but it’s always for having a shared folder people could download copyrighted material from.
HA! Awesome point.
I'd ask the members of the jury, "How many of you have not purchased a CD but had a friend burn you a copy?"
I figured that. I asked that question because it seems a bit ridiculous these days to download illegally when tracks are fairly cheap from legal sources.
You can stream pretty much any song you want to hear off of youtube. People post links to favorite songs on this forum all the time. Somehow that's legal and acceptable. Download a song from a file-sharing site however and you're an arch criminal.
That reminds me of people who used to make tapes of songs aired on the radio.
Lock me up!
My friends and I used to tape each other's LPs onto cassettes as well back in the 80s. Doesn't make it right but we did it anyways.
In retrospect, I guess I stole food from the mouths of Bon Jovi's children.
I worked with a guy who told stories of his childhood when used set-up a tape recorder next the radio and recording songs.
Yep! Some of my best mixed tapes were recorded straight from the radio, back when the DJs used to talk through the first 20 seconds of the song in a deliberate effort to discourage this.
LP 2 CD, one of the many audio conversion products offered by Ion Audio, lets you convert your vinyl records directly onto a CD or onto your Mac.
I never made a copy of aired music (I didn’t like the crappy sound quality with the electronic noise). However, I did make the occasional copy of cassette albums that I really liked. These were “listening copies” that I could play over and over again while keeping my purchased album in good order (this was when I was a kid and bought tapes with hard-earned money and didn’t want to trash my albums).
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I would use that for some of my rare and long-out of production vinyl (stuff that just can’t be found on CD).
Yeah, we used to do that with our reel to reel recorders in the mid '60s by holding a mic up to the radio speaker.
I knew one person with enough savvy to rig a cable with a headphone jack at one end and a microphone jack at the other end...
One shyster lawyer can steal all you assets for copying a couple of songs?
I had almost forgotten, but I helped my Dad do the same thing, except he hooked up his reel to reel to the TV set to record some of live broadcasts that weekend when President Kennedy was killed in 1963. I still have those tapes out in my garage somewhere...
Wow! Make digital copies of those because those are an historical record!
Yeah I think I will. Luckily, I have access to high tech digital equipment and reel to reel tape decks.
P.S. My Dad was Army Air Corps 1942 to 1945.
Beyond, the concept that the courts can seize such vast assets and award them to another is a prime example of cruel and unusual punishment. Again, trying to find some example from the time of the founding fathers where a court had the ability to seize not just one lifetime's accumulation of income, but multiple generations, is beyond any reality.
The price today to download legally 25 songs is under $25, or for a $15 fee, you have unlimited access to vast libraries of media. I'm not a supporter of theft, so I'm completely against the RIAA, those in Congress who violated the constitution in awarding these extravagant protections, and the courts overreaching their charge.
Because the biggest theft of all is being committed by the RIAA.
There's a singular solution which would fix all these problems. Limit copyright for ethereal creations and ideas to a five year protected period. The moment that's passed, you'll see the industry flock to making media access affordable, easy and an end to these endless John and Jane Doe lawsuits.
While this is a ridiculous case, as a writer who isn't famous or anything but who has his works protected by copyright, I can only say...
You will get my royalties when you pry my cold, dead fingers from them.
Why one thinks they have the right to something I (or any other person who actually creates) made, I have no idea. Seems to be the answer always comes down to, "Because I really want it."
Then either every other person who did this on the site should be sued, or the site owners should be the only ones sued. IMHO. It's like suing someone for distributing burned CD copies who met her customers at a place called Burned CD Copy Exchange.
I have one like the one in the picture. I bought 2000+ albums over the years, I’ll be damned if I’m buying them again! (Many of which aren’t on CD anyway.)
If this were prosecuted according to the frequency of the criminal's actions, I'd be the first American executed for taping stuff off the radio.
I dont get this.. you can go on youtube and listen to any song on the planet and pay nothing.. whats the difference between doing that and downloading?
I dont even understand how they even come up with that large of a fine.. for 24 songs? They probably wont get a dime from her and they probably spend more money pursuing these lawsuits and developping new ideas to combat illegal downloading than they would ever save from people not downloading.. Kids these days are much smarter than these computer security companies that combat piracy, they hack their software, which they probably spent millions of dollars creating, in a matter of minutes.
I'm an arch-conservative who doesn't own any patents (except indirectly, through my stock portfolio). But, by the same token, I've never violated any copyright laws.
Having said that, I think that it is legitimate to distinguish between material and immaterial property.
One's ownership of something is defined partly by the mere fact that one has stumbled across and/or found a previously ownerless object (think "pioneers") and "taken possession" of it, or has created something de novo (that "something" can be a material object like an iPod or an oceanliner, or something immaterial like a poem, a song, a novel, or an industrial process).
In the case of material goods, besides keeping paperwork (a "pink slip" to an automobile or a deed to land), one can also constantly re-assert one's ownership by maintaining physical possession (think "inhabiting land and defending it, if need be, with the force of arms") - but in the case of immaterial goods, unless one keeps them a secret (which may defeat their purpose - e.g., with music), as soon as they become disseminated, i.e., known to others, one can establish ownership only by referring to the paperwork (e.g., patent documents).
In regards to material things, the Law wisely limits ownership to things which one can actually control and maintain possession of (including even borderline cases like bees). In other words, property rights are limited to those things which one can, in actual practice, keep and defend. Thus, one cannot claim ownership of the air one exhales since it isn't practically possible to keep track of or corral the individual molecules of air. As soon as you bottle it in compressed air tanks, however, you can claim ownership.
In the case of intellectual property rights (some of which protect pretty piddling "inventions" like the use of a "clockface" or "hourglass" or "steaming cup of coffee" icon for the concept of "Be patient!" in computer program interfaces), the issue is even more complex since the "good" can be replicated trillions of times at virtually no cost (in the case of novels, at least, it used to be that they were bound to physical objects - i.e., books - which hampered unlimited reproduction, though bootleggers throve by printing on substandard paper).
I'm not really staking out a position in this debate except to say that, with the innovation of a distribution network like the Internet and the ability to reproduce "goods" even trillions of times at almost no cost, it may be necessary to re-think the concept of "private property" - at least with respect to intellectual property rights.
I have never produced anything worthy of patent or copyright protection. I doubt that I ever will. But I DO listen to, read and watch material that others have produced, I am of the opinion that their efforts should not go unrewarded. One can argue about how long protection of these works ought to last—which should be a balance of a fair return on an inventor’s efforts and the “right” of the public to use that which has been made public.
Why do we buy/download/steal/borrow books and CDs? Is it not because we think they have value to us as entertainment or information? I have read arguments on threads such as these that the person who invents or creates loses nothing if his work is copied without attribution or payment. I see a certain logic there. But the other side of this argument is that the person who does the copying gets something he values without paying anything for it, which most conservatives (like myself) ought to think is unfair.
The only reason this woman downloaded the songs was because she found value in them, either because she wanted to hear them herself (and arguably lacked the talent to create music that she wanted to listen to) or thought others would want to listen to them (if she made them available for others to download from her). She got (before the judgment was entered) something for nothing. Was that fair or right?
From the inventor/songwriter’s perspective, he has invested time and effort, or has given from a fruitful and talented mind, something that belonged to him, and something that did not exist before he created it. The results of that effort/talent should not be taken from him to be freely used by others who made no effort to create it.
The mechanisms and formulas for determing how to fairly compensate people who create can be argued, but I don’t see how the concept of allowing someone to benefit from the fruits of his labors without having others treat his work as their own property can be countenanced by anyone, and especially conservatives, who value the rights of the individual.
One should further differentiate between 1) someone who copies something for his own, personal enjoyment and entertainment, and 2) someone who copies something with the intention of disseminating it for personal gain (including making it available to others free of charge, but, e.g., while collecting advertising fees, increasing the traffic of his site, or otherwise obtaining a monetary benefit). The Law also views denying someone else their legitimate profits as equivalent to making a profit, oneself.
While both "1" and "2" are examples of Copyright Infringement and/or Theft of Intellectual Property, I don't believe that Law Enforcement is currently prosecuting people for case "1" - but that is only for reasons of practicality.
Thanks for such an interesting post.
I think about these issues on a daily basis. I completely understand what you’re saying, but to bottom-line it, when it comes to the examples you site, there is such a significant difference between the clockface design you’re talking about and a novel that is the transcription of an author’s created-from-scratch interior world that we’re talking about two completely different topics, really.
One has to define the difference you touch on here. The difference between the situation I responded to and the woman in this case is simply this: This woman did not make any claims that watered-down the copyright-holder’s claim to first-authorship. She did not take the songs and put her name on them, claiming she sang them. By NOT suing this one woman, the copyright holders would not have been hurting their own protection of their copyrighted material.
It’s a long, complex discussion, but I have strong feelings about this. There is aworld of difference between allowing others to build on the innovations of, say, the makers of a new technology, but just as no one can now say “I’M now the creator of the Mac or ipod because it’s been X number of years” (though they can build on the technology), no one has the right to say, “Sorry, DW, that you wrote that book which I had nothing to do with—it’s MINE now.” That’s a world of difference from liking something someone wrote and then building on it.
Wasn’t it Disney that pushed Congress to change the laws a few years back, to protect their classic movies?
Wasn’t it the RIAA who sued a mom & pop antique store because they played a radio?
They really do reach.
By pointing out the quantitative difference between, e.g., a novel and, e.g., a "clockface" icon - both of which are fully patentable/copyrightable and both of which enjoy the full protection of Intellectual Property Rights - you bring up an additional, interesting issue.
An "invention" can consist of just a single "innovation" - e.g., "when an e-mail arrives in the in-box, an electronic tone is emitted, signalling to the user its arrival" - while, e.g., a novel typically represents/embodies tens of thousands of individual artistic choices. Yet both are equally protected.
Also, we can recognize the similarity of an original song and a "rip-off" only because the human brain is "hardwired" to do so - just as we are hardwired to recognize human faces (even when they aren't really there, for example: in photographs of the surface of Mars). A judge being asked to decide in a plagiarism suit doesn't rely on word-counts, he/she makes a subjective judgement - but one which we, as humans who are hardwired to compare and correlate narratives, are eminently qualified to make.
This problem (Internet music downloads) has been around for approx. 15 years, and yet I think that we are still far from reaching a (new) consensus on what constitutes "Fair Use," what are commensurate penalties, and what can be practicably enforced.
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