Friday, January 22, 2010

Jammie Thomas verdict reduced from $1.92M to $54,000

In Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset, the Judge has reduced the verdict from $1.92 million to $54,000.

The Judge did not reach the constitutional due process issue raised by Ms. Thomas-Rasset's counsel, instead deciding the motion based upon standard principles of "remittitur". The judge described the standard for remittitur as follows:

so grossly excessive as to shock the conscience of the court. A verdict is not considered excessive unless there is plain injustice or a monstrous or shocking result

In discussing the factors upon which his decision rested, Judge Davis indicated that he had found that Ms. Thomas-Rasset lied under oath.

Judge Davis also indicated that he found even the reduced amount to be "harsh" and that, were he -- rather than a jury -- deciding the appropriate measure of damages, the award might well have been even lower than $54,000. But he felt that since the jury had determined the damages, it was his province to determine only the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award.

The RIAA has 7 days to decide whether to accept the reduced verdict, or to request a new trial.

Decision granting remittitur

Commentary & discussion:
Digital Music News

[Ed. note. The decision is a thoughtful one, and vindicates the principle that statutory damages under the Copyright Act must be reasonably proportioned to the actual damages. But this verdict is still 6428 times the actual damages, and therefore continues to be excessive. I do not feel the Court had an option of avoiding the constitutional question, since even the $750 minimum statutory damages is ~2200 times the actual damages flowing from an unauthorized download of an mp3 file. -R.B.]

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


Anonymous said...

Not as good as it could be, but better than it was.


Jadeic said...

Although far more than is reasonable - or that Jammie can afford to pay - it is likely to be considerably less than the RIAA have expended on this protracted litigation. So, do they go for broke or cut their losses? The clock is ticking...


raybeckerman said...

Yeah, the RIAA has probably spent ~$1,000,000 or more on this case. It's not about the case, it's about the in terrorem effect of the out-sized verdict.

The smart play would be to pack their bags and call it a day on this one, but they're not known for choosing the smart play, are they?

Anonymous said...

Can the constitutional issue of excessive damages be raised again in regards to the new damage amount, since the constitutional issue was not reached in the decision? Is that likely?

- Andrew

Anonymous said...

Isn't there still the issue of attorney's fees? If the RIAA gets $54K judgement plus $1M for the attorney fees, it's still likely a bankruptcy for Jammie.


raybeckerman said...

My recollection is that there was some kind of deal made under which the RIAA waived its right to seek attorneys fees.

I doubt they would want the world to know how much they've wasted on this case; it would make them look like bullies.

(See, and you probably thought I had no sense of humor)