Imagining a real-world verdict in Thomas-Rasset case

Ray Beckerman has a nice little piece of vitriol about the crazy-ass $1.9 million judgment in the Capitol v Thomas-Rasset case.

Ray Beckerman has a nice little piece of vitriol about the crazy-ass $1.9 million judgment in the Capitol v Thomas-Rasset case. Ray imagines a parallel universe in which the trial was conducted according to the Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure. In this world, the RIAA needs some shred of evidence to prevail on the issues but this is not the world the Federal Court in Minnesota occupies, apparently. It's a bit lawyerly. I offer a sort of translation.

Liability on the Reproduction Right: RIAA provided "not an iota of proof" of copying. Directed verdict for defendant.

Liability on the Distribution Right: No evidence of any dissemination to anyone but Media Sentry. Directed verdict for defendant.

Media Sentry testimony/evidence: Should have been barred because RIAA didn't disclose MediaSentry as experts; in any case, their "scientific" method is less than generally accepted and doesn't meet the federal standard for reliable scientific evidence.

Statutory damages - entitlement. A "work" is an album, not a song. The parallel jury instructions instruct jurors to found infringements by albums, not songs. Further, there's only an infringement after the copyright registration effective date. This wasn't even inquired into in Minnestota.

Statutroy damages - amount. Under the statute, damages start at $750, 1,000 times the actual damage of 70 cents a song. Since punitive damages can't be more than 3-4 times actual damages, the jury is instructed that if they find infringement, the amount must be the minimum $750 per work.

Of course even that amount appears to violate due process, according to BMW v Gore and other Supreme Court cases. The constitutional issue would then be argued in postrial motions.

Ray concludes:

That's the way it would have played out in the real world.

I can dream, can't I?

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