Courts come down hard on online copyright infringement

23Sep12

With the onslaught of the digital age, the music industry (as well as film, TV and other content creators) has been clamoring to find a way to stop illegal downloading of their product. Over the past few years there have been a series of lawsuits filed against copyright infringers in -what seems to be- an attempt to make an example to other infringers about the consequences of their actions.

This month, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals awarded  the Recording Industry Association of America (the RIAA -a group which represents six major recording labels including Sony BMG Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings Inc and Arista Records) $222,000 in damages in a case against Jammie Thomas-Rasset–a single mother of two young boys from Brainerd Minnesota. She was accused of illegally downloading 2 dozen songs from a file-sharing network called KaZaA in 2005. After refusing to settle with the RIAA, they sued Thomas-Rasset for statutory damages. This is down from a previous courts decision to award the RIAA over $1.9 million.

Under the current system, damages can be awarded in amounts ranging from $750 – $150,000 per infringement. This averages to $9,250 per song for the Thomas-Rasset case. Thomas-Rasset has become a symbolic martyr for the world of internet downloading and continues to appeal the courts’ decisions. According to her defense team, Ms. Thomas-Rasset believes the current law disproportionately compensates the record labels for the infringement, and intends to take her case to the supreme court if necessary.

According to many commentators, the RIAA is using this case to serve as a cautionary tale to those wishing to download copyrighted materials without pay. It is an example of how current copyright law has failed to progress at the same rapid pace that technology has advanced. While record companies are in a panic about how to keep making money from their product, young kids, college students, and single moms are being prosecuted for hundreds of thousands of dollars for downloading a free copy of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin”.

Karyn McNay

 

articles:

Appeals court raises damages award in music piracy case. http://movies.yahoo.com/news/appeals-court-raises-damages-award-music-piracy-case-202331291–finance.html

 

Jammie Thomas-Rasset: The download martyr. http://www.citypages.com/2011-02-16/news/jammie-thomas-rasset-the-download-martyr/

File-sharer will take RIAA case to Supreme Court. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/09/file-sharer-will-take-riaa-case-to-supreme-court/

Capital v Thomas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitol_v._Thomas

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