Monday, July 06, 2009

Defendant moves for new trial in Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset

The defendant has moved for a new trial in Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset.

Defendant's brief (PDF) argues, among other things, that the 'monstrous' sized verdict violates the Due Process Clause, consistent with 100 years of SCOTUS jurisprudence, since it is grossly disproportionate to any actual damages sustained. It further argues that, since the RIAA elected to offer no evidence of actual damages, either as an alternative to statutory damages, or to buttress the fairness of a statutory damages award, the verdict, if it is to be reduced, must be reduced to zero.

Defendant's motion for new trial


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Keywords: lawyer digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property portable music player

20 comments:

Eric said...

How can that argument be justified against the clear intent of congress to authorize such awards? I don't know the answer, that's why I'm asking.

Ray Beckerman said...

Eric, the constitution is our paramount law. When congress enacts a statute that is repugnant to the constitution it is invalid. The courts have been striking down statutes -- where congress's "intent" was "clear" -- for about 200 years now. If you attended school in the US, you were taught that in grade school.

Ray Beckerman said...

Nor is there any reason, by the way, to believe that Congress intended any such result, since at the time the statute was enacted decades of caselaw were already in existence restraining the amount of copyright act statutory damages that could be awarded as against the actual damages and profits.

neroden@gmail said...

I've been wondering why the "excessive fines" clause is never mentioned in this regard. It seems to lend "color" -- penumbras and emanations? -- to the argument that the due process clause prohibits excessive non-compensatory damages. If excessive non-compensatory damages were allowed, then civil law -- with its lower standards of proof and allowance of selective enforcement -- could be used to evade a clear and fundamental Constitutional prohibition in the criminal law. Which is, in practice, exactly what's been happening in the RIAA cases.

So, in other words, why doesn't that clause get mentioned often in the briefs on excessive, unconstitutional damages?

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

Judge Davis must be crying right about now.

Anonymous said...

To be generous to Congress, it is likely that many members of Congress (except those from California) were thinking, of copyright infringement for personal gain, by companies and such. Not by random people using P2P software.

XYZZY

Anonymous said...

" Judge Davis must be crying right about now."

I'm pretty sure he's not, Justin.

Dreddsnik

Anonymous said...

...since at the time the statute was enacted decades of caselaw were already in existence restraining the amount of copyright act statutory damages that could be awarded as against the actual damages and profits.

Citations?

The Common Man Speaking said...

Ray,

This man believes that Eric *did* attend school in the US, and that explains his woeful lack of understanding completely.

Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) said...

"To be generous to Congress, it is likely that many members of Congress (except those from California) were thinking, of copyright infringement for personal gain, by companies and such. Not by random people using P2P software."

That certainly seems to be the case. $150k seems like a perfectly reasonable fine for a company that's pumping out truckloads of counterfeit books or movies.

What's really happening in the RIAA cases is that laws are being used in ways that were not imagined when the laws were written. Remember, the reason copyright fines are per work and not per copy (they used to be per copy) are to REDUCE statutory damages; the fact that in this case they are grossly increasing damages is further proof that the RIAA is doing it very wrong.

Ray Beckerman said...

Dear Anonymous, (1) how do I know you're not Matthew Oppenheim? (2) I don't brief legal issues here before I've briefed them in court (3) my amicus briefs in SONY v Cloud & SONY v Tenenbaum allude to just a few of the many authorities (4) the Wired.com article which incorrectly attacks Judge Sotomayor refers to another of the cases.. but in fact there are hundreds of such cases.

Anonymous said...

Dear Citations?,

You could read her brief? Then you might find citations...

-icansignmyposts

Ray Beckerman said...

2 comments rejected from same commenter, because they contain misleading statements about the law.

The constitutional argument in the motion is based on the 5th amendment due process clause.

The rest of the motion is based on ordinary garden variety common law principles.

The motion does not attack the statute, it attacks the jury's verdict.

Ray Beckerman said...

I do not have time to write briefs responding to comments on my blog, so in future I may just reject similar comments without indicating that I have done so or why.

There are plenty of places on the internet where people can fictionalize to their heart's content. I try to keep that to a minimum here, so that the dialogue will be intelligent, constructive, and dignified.

Anonymous said...

" This man believes that Eric *did* attend school in the US, and that explains his woeful lack of understanding completely. "

Easy there.
I attended school in the US as
well as many readers here.

One wormy apple really does not
spoil the whole tree. ;)

The stupid is everywhere, places
like this help to lessen the degree
of it.

Dreddsnik.

Anonymous said...

Off topic - but even the IRS recognizes the due process clause - it wants to reduce statutory penalties for small business non-compliance to something more closely resembling the size of the unreported transactions. Now let's apply the same logic to statutory damages for noncommercial copyright infringers.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/07/07/business/main5140323.shtml

- MB

Eric said...

I would like to point out you have asked to keep it dignified after insulting my intelligence and deleting my questions.

If you don't want opposing viewpoints or questions I'll be happy to stop commenting.

StephenH said...

I think this is very interesting. I think she has a reasonable shot at lowering the verdict, either from a new trial or an appeal. $85,000 per song is very expensive for a single person to pay.

Eric said...

I do believe she has a good chance of getting the award modified, but expecting either a new trial, an award less than $750, or a $0 award is probably not going to happen.

RIAA didn't argue actual damages because they don't need to. By law they can claim actual or statutory damages. The judges are restricted in the reduction in award to what the copyright act allows unless they intend to invalidate that statutory language.

I understand the theory that Camera is pushing. I've read both Camera's motion as well as the Lindor and others. It requires that the courts find that the copyright act statutory damages are, in fact, punitive rather than statutory so the standards of Gore or Campbell apply. I don't know if he will find that kind of relief from the Judicial branch, it really needs to come from the Legislative branch. I have no faith that the courts will rule in Camera's favor.

Maybe the MediaSentry evidence will be tossed, but I doubt it. Camera didn't even bother to present his own expert witness in rebuttal.

That's just my non-lawyer opinion. Unfortunately what we need most is copyright reform, not more lawsuits.

Some of the cases that I read up on ( besides the ones listed in the motions here ).

"F. W. Woolworth Co. v. Contemporary Arts, Inc., 344 U.S. 228, 232 (1952)"

"Bobbie Harris v. Mexican Specialty Foods, Inc. d.b.a La Paz Restaurante & Cantina" - Not unlike Ramerez which was cited in some of the documents. It touches on some of the due process items while skipping on excessiveness as not ripe.

neroden@gmail said...

"It requires that the courts find that the copyright act statutory damages are, in fact, punitive rather than statutory so the standards of Gore or Campbell apply. I don't know if he will find that kind of relief from the Judicial branch, it really needs to come from the Legislative branch. I have no faith that the courts will rule in Camera's favor."

Given the legislative history, I think the courts had better rule in favor of that, since it's evidently true -- the previous iteration of the law actually specified which amounts were essentially punitive! I see no reason why Thomas-Rasset shouldn't appeal all the way to the Supreme Court on that point.