$222,000 Appeal Validates RIAA's Crusade Against Ordinary People

Today the US Court of Appeals helped the recording industry extort $US222,000 from Jammie Thomas-Rasset for distributing 24 songs on the internet. The original verdict called for a preposterous penalty of $US1.92 million. Sure, this new amount of just under $US9000 per song is a smaller penalty, but it's still absurd.

It's been just a few weeks since an appeals court judge denied the appeal of regular dude Joel Tenenbaum, effectively forcing him to pay $US675,000 for distributing 31 songs on Kazaa. But the Recording Industry of America's latest trampling of an ordinary citizen is a larger symbolic victory for the RIAA. This lawsuit in particular made headlines when it was launched in 2007 because Thomas-Rasset is a mother of four who would never be able to repay the huge quantities of money the recording industry's lawyers demanded in court. The case isn't over and Thomas-Rasset's lawyers will surely examine their options going forward, but this is definitely a major setback for her case.

After a series of appeals in which the final penalty has fluctuated from $US54,000 to nearly $US2 million, nobody has been able to get the case thrown out. These file-sharing incidents should end in a slap on the wrist at most. Nobody's saying piracy is right, but ruining people's lives in an effort to make an example is dishonorable and disingenuous. If the RIAA insists on continuing to sue its customers, they shouldn't be surprised if in the end they have no customers left at all. [CNET]


Comments

    do the RIAA have a building or two that we could burn down in protest?

    I wish the terrorists would hit a target of worth for once.

      +1

      That's a pretty messed up comment to make, even in jest.

      It would be a good use for UAV hacking. To guide one right into Cary Sherman's testicles.

    There are rapists, murderers and other disgraceful people walking our streets, and the courts are wasting there time with a mother of four who distributed 24 songs over the internet?
    How have they come up with these ridiculous penalties? I am seeding ~1TB of stuff right now, I'm going to get fined a bazillion quadragillion dollars!

      So it is OK to steal, is it? Because what you call distributing 24 songs over the internet is what I call stealing royalties from artists and labels who have done absolutely nothing to deserve it, other than create something that person probably liked and enjoyed.

      That these few individuals need to be made an example of is abundantly illustrated by the tone of this article and of these comments. Sadly, it will be about as effective as road safety campaigns because every individual believes it could never happen to them.

        While there are corporate types ripping off peoples' life savings, murderers and rapists getting soft penalties, these penalties for file sharing will always be seen as ridiculous.
        Also, the above type of pontificating will ALWAYS be laughed at by those of us in the real world.
        Thanks for the giggles though.

        I don't like douchebags, I think we should make an example of you by shooting you in the face...does that sound fair? I didn't think so...

        I'm sorry, you must of been reading a different article where this guy ran the pirate bay.

        The article I was reading said he was fined $222,000 for $20 worth of music, and that this has wasted far too much court time already.

        Ahhh motormouth, we can always count on you to staunchly support the RIAA at every turn, proudly telling the world about how this woman who stole $20 worth of crap with no possible way of selling or fencing the goods for profit deserves to have her life completely ruined.

        You sir, are just like a big time drug dealer who turns around to the courts after selling millions of dollars of goods through exploitation of 3rd world workers (the artists) and say that a person owes you their life for stealing a couple of grams.

        Punish someone, sure. But make it reasonable, I guess if it was up to you I'm sure you would give them death penalty

    Waiting for the holier-than-thou supporters of RIAA to arrive and start commenting.

    Before that though.. clearly this is a miscarriage of justice to allow a fine of that magnitude for such a petty crime. They want damages.. for what? Something that doesn't even exist.. digital content.. what is it? 0's and 1's.. oh it's IP? again.. something that doesn't actually exist. All of this stuff doesn't actually exist.. sure.. the original score exists.. but they're not copying that are they.. no.. they're copying a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of some recording.

    By law, the moment you record something it is copyrighted.. so yes.. legally there is a crime that's been committed.. that's without question.. but as far as damages are concerned? Try $0.99 per song.

      Not agreeing with RIAA's method or the penalty, but what they're arguing IS in fact something along the magnitude of $0.99 per song. But when you multiply that $0.99 for every person that's subsequently been able to download the song, from the original source on Kazaa, right through to the Nth person via torrents, that sum quickly mounts up.

      Also, I don't agree with the argument that 'nothing' has been stolen because it's not really 'something'. If a person at your work stole credit for a brilliant idea you had that landed them a promotion, payrise and bonus, you'd want to take those benefits back from them. But according to your position, your idea never really 'existed', so you'd have nothing to be upset over.

      RIAA have made their point. They've shown that they were in the right, that the pirates were in the wrong, but they can back down now, nobody's life needs to be ruined by all of this.

      Try 99c multiplied by every single time that song was downloaded. It might be OK if it was one of my band's songs but if it was Lady Gaga or One Direction, then it could easily end up in the hundreds of thousands.

      Anyway, I assume you happily pay for internet access, for your phone and all the other things that are also just made up of 0's and 1's, so why make a distinction here? After all, these same 0's and 1's you say are worth nothing make a lot of money for companies like Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Adobe, Autodesk and countless other companies whose entire empires are built upon them, why should record companies and the artists they support not qualify?

      Ultimately everything is made from something largely worthless - bricks from clay, steel from rocks, glass from sand. Its not how the raw materials started, it is all the time, effort and expense that goes into making them into something special that gives them value.

        And if someone stole $20 worth of bricks, you would of course charge them $270,000 for the pleasure cause that's reasonable, right?

        Problem here is your assuming that everyone who downloads it, if not given the oppertunity would have brought it instead of getting it freely.

        The 1 million downloads would actually translate to probally 10 people actually buying it. remeber theres not only one source to get music. People have friends.

        If this is your stance then you would actually be aiming at the original person who shared the song.. otherwise the sharing only goes as far as who physically downloaded it from her and then the next person is responsible for their sharing.

        That means she either shared $20 worth of music or none at all and the person who originally uploaded to kazaa was guilty of the crime..

    I stopped buying music when the RIAA started suing everybody. I now only listen to the radio, and the old collection I do have...which tbh is much better than what gets released these days anyways!

    I'm not saying that these people shouldn't be punished, but damages of this magnitude, and the fact the cases seem to be more about making examples of people, makes me want to tell the RIAA to f**k right off.

    It's stealing, she deserved to be fined $5,000,000,000

    ...for each song!

    Ok, I'm full of it, I think it's a ridiculous decision. I hope she continues to appeal and they get shafted. Use the court for REAL issues.

      What, you don't think having your livelihood stolen out from under you is a REAL issue for anyone in the music industry? Or is it not a REAL issue if it doesn't impact adversely upon you directly?

        Actually she has just advertised that song to a good many people, thus becoming a good viral advert for the songs. riaa should pay her for everyone she exsposed to the song, she has just potentially turn them all into raving fans of said artists and are now on there way to buy the most exspensive merchandise out there.

        bet there merchandise is far more exspensive then the songs too.

    What right does the RIAA have to make an example of someone? Show me how they calculated how much money they claim they've lost and then we'll see.

      The RIAA is not making an example of anyone, the court is, presumably at the direction of a jury of the defendant's peers.

        RIAA pushed the person infront of the court......RIAA started it, courts will finish it.

        RIAA IS making an example, download our music and your in front of a court.

    So let's say that she gets forced to pay the fine - just how much of that is going to end up with the artists and how much is going into the RIAA coffers?
    It's a completely ridiculous amount and will completely ruin her life in almost every way possible.
    Screw the RIAA. Them and their progeny.

      Nothing will go to the artists, but I bet luxury car sales and real estate will spike. They're going to absolutely ruin a person's life, just so that they can continue living in their 70's and 80's fiefdoms.

    I thought that the mongoloid RIAA was going out of buisness?

      Not at $10,000 a track!

    If "piracy is stealing", as they keep putting it in their endless advertisements in the cinemas and on dvds to the point I want to pirate just so I don't have to watch those stupid advertisements... why are they suing anyone? Theft is a criminal offence and therefore should be prosecuted as such, as such.

    It's as if someone broke into a house and stole a TV, and Sony then sues them for the theft of their device.

      It's not theft, it's copyright infringement, so it's a civil matter.

      The

    For all those complaining about how tough the artists are doing it, sure I have to agree. Piracy has little to do with it though.

    Dig around a bit. Movie studios are producing more now than they did a decade ago. Pay levels have increased and despite everyone apparently going out of business due to piracy executive bonuses are still going strong.

    If the fine was split up and $9000 was paid to the artist of each of the 24 songs, then great.

    After the lawyers take their slice, record companies take a chunk, and a few bonuses as a pat on the back for some other suits, I am willing to bet that the artist(s) who's work was distributed in the first place will never ever see a single cent from this verdict. Ever.

    So who is stealing from whom?

    all the pop stars making billions of dollars exactly because everyone is paying for their tracks.... oh wait.... how does it work thn? they still making billion of dollars and we are downloading all the mp3s for free.... win win?

    Only in America *sigh* this is what is wrong with the world.. If I created 24 Amazing songs which I had already earnt even 200k off I would be that stoked that I would probably then stream the songs free myself.

    Disgusting greed is disgusting America.

    Don't see an issue with this. The penalty is seen as excessive as people see it as she just torented. The issue is that she distributed the songs - it's like the difference between drug users and drug sellers. Drug users get a slap on the wrist - drug suppliers get more hefty penalties.
    RIAA is just trying to make the same distinction here.
    Using terms like "ordinary citizen" and "regular dude" only serves to try to denigrate the valid position of RIAA with no substance. Sure, it could ruin their lives, but then, doing crimes SHOULD do that.
    Also note, those commenting on "but they really provided free publicity for the songs" and "only if those that downloaded would have bought it" - that stuff has no bearing on the case. And nor should it. It's up to the brand/IP holders to present their products.
    Ask yourself - If people took from you the very thing you earn your living off, would you think it fair?

      And yet, I did a quick google search and it looks like in California the max fine you could get for selling marijuana is $500, not $9000 like sharing a song.
      The point of awarding damages is to have the victim paid for any losses they may have incurred, not to punish the person committing the crime, and I'm quite certain her sharing of 20 songs did not cost the RIAA a quarter of a million dollars in lost sales.

        And what do you base that off?
        Here the RIAA have worked out the potential damages for when the songs became freely available.
        In this case, the severity of the punishment is in alignment with the projected costs to the sellers. The courts even seem to agree here. So the damages seem reasonable. The fact she can't pay means nothing.
        As the old saying goes, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

          and we are all sure your hands are totally clean. No one ever reads UELA's and probably do illegal stuff with software as well. So dont get all high and mighty about judging people for ripping off IP.

          $9000 is incredibly silly, perhaps if they put it as a percentage of their income lost she could pay them that equivalent in her income? because at $9000 a song they are not after recuperating damages, their after pure, petty revenge.

            $9000/song is hardly petty.
            And your assumptions about me a dead wrong. I take this stuff seriously because I am a software developer. I earn my living by charging people for a product that I invest a lot of time and energy into creating. So don't expect me to sympathize with those who find it trivial to rip/copy/torrent. Don't measure the quality of people by your own standards. You call it high and mighty. I call it just. If you find yourself defending the actions of the criminal, you need to look at yourself and ask "if I was the victim, what would I expect to be appropriate".
            If it's just 99c - pay the freaking 99c.
            The article should actually be outlining that a woman could have spent less than $24 to protect herself from the $222000 lawsuit.
            So is the issue here that she didn't have the $24? Was she unable to comprehend what she was doing was wrong? Was she unaware of her action to then distribute the songs? Is it too much to expect that people understand "if I can't afford it, I can't have it"?
            Please enlighten me on any argument in which the actions of Jammie can be justified.

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