Imagining a real-world verdict in Thomas-Rasset case

Imagining a real-world verdict in Thomas-Rasset case

Summary: 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?

Topic: Legal

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  • It is amazing what results can be had

    from our 'superior' justice system. Not to say I'd trade living here for almost aanywhere else, but it certainly shows that there is definite room for improvement.

    Thanks for both of your articles, cogent and precise, and not simply because I agree.
  • She lost...twice.

    Not only that but she was found to be willfully infringing. Time to
    dispose of the far reaching defenses and realize the RIAA was
    completly in the right in this case. As for the award...that's a whole
    different discussion.
    • Just to clarify

      She lost twice. Before a jury.
      • That doesn't mean

        That either verdict was made according to the law. Juries get it wrong all the time. Apparently, pretty often in Minnesota. The law may well be unconstitutional, but even under the terms of the law, you have to show your evidence, prove your case.

        This verdict will be overturned. And then you can say, she has never lost this case.
        • Verdict is correct

          There's no reason to believe both juries made an error. It may be thrown out
          due to the size of the award but not because she isn't liable.
  • Nobody cares.....

    Has anybody noticed how much profits have soared since the RIAA started filing suits against music customers?
    • People who don't pay

      aren't customers. Apparently, this is a hard concept for some people to
      get. I would wager it's totally incomprehensible to about 53% of the
      American electorate.
      • Well, actually

        she did pay. She bought CDs. She ripped em onto her computer. How is she not a customer? More to the point, people who like your product so much they grab it illegally are potential customers waiting for the appropriate offering. Know any other industry that treats potential customers like this?

        Software responded by making free trials available. Now everyone has free trials and I doubt that US 'piracy' is a huge problem.