How The RIAA and deep-pocketed Big Music got their way with a young, single mother of two

Summary:My colleague Declan McCullagh offers a list of causes why that jury in Duluth, Minnesota assessed a $222,000 fine against Jammie Thomas for copyright infringement on 24 illegally downloaded tracks.He argues that:The RIAA was able to match a user name and IP address with Thomas- who, by the way,  chose a Kazaa user name that was the same as her email address.

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My colleague Declan McCullagh offers a list of causes why that jury in Duluth, Minnesota assessed a $222,000 fine against Jammie Thomas for copyright infringement on 24 illegally downloaded tracks.

He argues that:

The RIAA was able to match a user name and IP address with Thomas- who, by the way,  chose a Kazaa user name that was the same as her email address. Not very smart, Jammie.

The RIAA's lawyers offered two jury instruction suggestions that explain the sins of downloading and distributing copyrighted materials overP2P networks. Apparently, the defense did not contest these suggestions, which U.S. District Judge Michael Davis chose to adapt.

Jury Instruction 15 could have sealed the deal. It told the jury that the mere act of leaving copyrighted tracks in a public directory from which downloads was easy was essentially as bad as proving that actual downloads of these infringing files took place. The "harshness" of copyright law offers a way for plaintiffs to claim "statutory damages" rather than actual damages. Statutory damage claims in such cases can range from $750 to more than $30,000. Willful infringement kicks that up to $100,000.

"In this case, the jurors chose $9,250 in damages for each of the 24 songs, or $222,000," Declan writes. "They could have gone as low as $18,000 in total or as high as $720,000, and seemed to want to pick something closer to the middle."

Declan thinks that the RIAA will offer an olive branch, perhaps for one-tenth of the $222,000.

While Declan's right about the causes of the verdict. Still, we have to consider the underlying motivations of this controvery. What we have here is the RIAA, and Big Music, making an example of a non-affulent woman who made some unwise choices, and didn't appear to have as excellent a legal team behind her as her deep-pocketed adversaries.

Even if the RIAA makes her a say, $20,000 settlement offer she "can't refuse," tell me this. How's this young, single mother of two gonna pay even a fraction of that?

If the RIAA cares about musicians, I still say the most humane thing to do would be for Jammie to work off some of her fine in a community service role for a local music school or after-hours school music program. Driving kids back and forth to such schools, maybe an office assistant at such a program or institution, something in her skill set.

Topics: CXO, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Legal

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