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]