back to article Damages slashed for US freetard

Infamous music pilferer Jammie Thomas-Rasset has had a $2m damages bill for copying 24 songs slashed by a US judge. Thomas-Rasset will now have to pay $54,000 to the big US music labels, a fraction of the original reward. She used the Kazaa network to share music and was originally hit with damages of $80,000 for each song. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At least...

    .... there's one member of the American judiciary prepared to stand up on their hind legs and administer something a little closer (though hardly close enough) to natural justice.

    On a whole range of subjects, it's a pity our UK judges can't separate themselves from their political and media fellow Etonians and show a little courage in the face of bad legislation. For centuries, the law was about important people and their property and not at all about justice - it took a long time to change things. Looks as though we're sliding backwards a lot faster than we got here...

  2. David Hicks

    Say "Freetard" all you like

    But even 54 grand is horribly disproportionate and in no way just,

  3. My Alter Ego

    She would have been better off ...

    ... if she just nicked 2 CDs containing the 24 songs. The RIAA is sending out a clear message: "Don't pirate, just steal from our retailers"

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @ My Alter Ego

      The fine is not for downloading the songs - which is NOT illegal in the US. The fine is for distributing them (or making them available for distribution).

      1. JaitcH

        She can have a copy of my stuff.

        I have about 117 gigs of music I downloaded over the past few years. This woman is welcome to a copy. It was compiled in Canada where we had sensible laws.

        She might not care for the hot copy of 'Off with their heads' (withdrawn after a week) or the complete Flanders and Swann but there must be something to amuse her.

  4. irish donkey
    Thumb Up

    When money is your only motivation

    When money is your only motivation you will eventually start to lose....

    You can produce complex computations' showing how much you think you deserve but when NOBODY else thinks you deserve that money you won't get it!

    Don't worry thought Lord Mandy is busy scribbling out a new Copyright charter for you now.

  5. AJames
    Thumb Up

    Some common sense on boths sides, finally!

    I actually think that we're finally starting to see some common sense on both sides of this debate. The traditional copyright laws specified ridiculous statutory damages originally intended for an entirely different commercial copyright infringement situation. It's long past time that they were clarified in common law to specify reasonable damages proportionate to the minor-offense situation of individual file sharers on the internet. On the other side, the new approach of copyright organizations sending warning complaints to ISPs, and the ISPs threatening to disconnect the customers for repeated offenses, is a good and reasonable one. It allows a little healthy freedom, with a measured response when it goes too far. The "big stick" of commercial copyright infringement is still there to put some force behind it. There's no need for clumsy and excessive "3 strikes" laws to interfere in this process.

    1. transientcylon
      Thumb Up


      I'd tend to agree as well but let's not forget ACTA and the wonderful notion that they would like to criminalize this sort of activity. Because god forbid an otherwise law abiding citizen steal from the mouth of poor, starving Bono. More recording industry tears please, they fuel me.

  6. nick 30

    Its a fair system

    Just once I'd like to see a company fined $2,250 per item for something they did.

    The Sony rootkit incident (which WAS also copyright infringement) should have cost them around $4.7 billion.

    The Exxon Valdez spill should have cost them over $24 billion.

    The only people who get these kinds of fines are those who dont have the ability to fight them.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    She's already pointed out that she can't pay $54000 either

    so the exercise was always futile.

    They won't get their money and illicit file-sharing continues apace.

  8. Valerion

    The Real Reason

    There was no way she could pay $2m so there was no point in even trying to get the money from her. But $54,000 might be possible, and as she is not exactly wealthy will also have a fantastic effect on her quality of life, and that of any children she may have.

    Everyone wins!!*

    *As long as you are the RIAA.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    A bit better.

    To think the original $2m fine was given because the copies of the files she was sharing COULD have resulted in more copies made by other users... a shaky premise to begin with!

    I'm glad the RIAA's scare tactics didn't quite win this one.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Damages slashed for US freetard

    I don't condone wholesale pilfering of copyrighted material but any 'reasonable' person would argue that she does not seem to fit into that category. So, why does she not challenge this along the lines of an infringement of her constitutional rights (amendment 8 I believe) ?.

    The 8th amendment talks about 'excessive fines'. Wikipedia quotes for example (if you can believe anything you read):-

    In United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321 (1998), the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to take $357,144 from a person who failed to report his taking of more than $10,000 in U.S. currency out of the United States.

    Now, unless the RI Ass. of America can prove $54,000 loss of revenue due to her actions, any defence worth tuppence should tell them to shove it where the sun doesn't shine.

    By all means the RIAA and MPAA have a case against wholesale theft of their material by persons aiming to make money at their expense, but for goodness sake, individuals downloading paltry amounts of material ?. There are a whole load of moral, philosophical and legal arguments here that will keep the lawyers busy for years but going after the peasants isn't the way that this will ever be resolved.

    1. Sarah Baucom

      She did

      Originally, she was ordered to pay $222,000. There was a retrial, and the jury then found her guilty of willful copyright infringement, and upped the damages to $1.92 million. The $54,000 amount came from the motion she filed that the damage award was disproportionate to actual damages, and unconstitutional.

      Personally, I think even the $750 minimum statutory fine per work is too high. The rationale is that it's impossible to know how much money the copyright holder actually lost due to the defendant infringing, but the range of $750 to $150,000 per work is almost certainly way more than actual losses. The $2250 per song they eventually decided on assumes thousands of downloads per song from Ms. Thomas, and that's again assuming each download was actually a lost sale.

  11. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    Fines for copyright violation

    I am totally for a system of “fines” for copyright violation. I would imagine the best way to create such a system would be to base it on the fines system for speeding. The fines need to be harsh enough to discourage an individual from breaking the law, but commensurate with the offence: it is a very minor offence, it should not ruin a person’s life.

    For the freetards to say “the cost of a song is $0.99, this is all you should pay if caught” is unrealistic because there is nothing in that penalty to discourage someone from infringing on another’s copyright. For the greedtards to demand $80,000 per infringement is equally ludicrous.

    A fine somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 (about what we pay for a speeding infraction) for every non-commercial violation of copyright seems around the right balance to me.

    There are allready enough laws to deal harsh punishment to commercial infringers...I don't think those laws need review.

  12. Rolf Howarth

    Her own fault

    Wasn't this the woman who deliberately lied and perjured herself at her original trial, which pissed everyone there off so much that a punitive award was imposed against her? Remember, the original $2m fine was decided on by a JURY, not by the judge or the RIAA.

  13. JimFromOhio

    Can't just blame "the system"

    Not to be forgotten it was a jury of her "peers" that produced the original award to the RIAA. It's widely known that their detection of blatant lying in her testimony was a considerable factor.

  14. Inachu

    RIAA is not being honest.

    The same with other plaintiffs.

    They push us into nefarious means of technological prowess in order for us to get the

    music we desire when in fact the very music we want is being taken away from us at the retail level. Fact in point where I live is FYE.

    They just recently removed 50% of American music and movies and replaced it with mexicano fair of music and movies that are not for Americans who live in the USA.

    If retailers keep alienating americans then I can only see a rise in theft.

  15. Turtle

    I have no sympathy...

    I had no problem with the original multi-million dollar judgment: she lied repeatedly and destroyed subpoenaed evidence. I am surprised that the judge did not take this into account when asked to reduce the awards. It would be nice to understand why the judge also saw fit to alter the decision of a jury, to which the courts normally give great deference.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    no sympathy

    To the best of my recollection the RIAA never took off the table the original offer to resolve for around $4K. She should have taken it then, and if she's smart she'll still take it. Could have saved the cost ot two trials and looking like a fool to boot.

  17. Ammaross Danan

    Re: Valerion

    "There was no way she could pay $2m so there was no point in even trying to get the money from her. But $54,000 might be possible, and as she is not exactly wealthy will also have a fantastic effect on her quality of life, and that of any children she may have."

    And even if she does have to pay it, that's one more mom +children that's on welfare, and if statistics are anything to go by, those 4 children will most likely roll through the justice system again later in life... hopefully not for shooting me over my pocketbook.

  18. SirTainleyBarking

    This has all the smell of


  19. b166er


    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 would 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.

    Trevor Pott

    Ahhh, the car analogy. Speeding is not a very minor offence. Speeding in built-up areas such as housing estates does ruin lives. This has been taken too far now however and consequently people view speeding offences as commonplace; inevitable even. I'm sure this suits the treasury quite well. File-sharing does not in any way come close to speeding. It's perhaps on the same level as anti-social behaviour and perhaps repeat offenders should be given a small fine of some sort after all other approaches to curtail the behaviour have failed. For the majority of people, I'm sure a warning from their ISP would suffice, for the remaining few, being up in front of the beak would most likely do the job and for those that don't respond to that, a fine may be appropriate; community service perhaps even more so.

    The irony of the judge adjusting the reasonable level of fine that could be apportioned by the jury is, that the $2M amount was plainly unachievable and no-one would have expected Ms. Jammie Thomas-Rasset to pay it; however, $54K is potentialy payable.

    1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge


      Speeding does not ruin lives. The sudden stop that occurs because an individual doesn't know how to drive does. (Following too close is IMNSHO a "crime" 10,000 times worse than speeding.)

      There are reasonable arguments that a speed limit allows other drivers as well as pedestrians an idea of how fast cars on a particular stretch of road are travelling, thus giving a feeling of when it is safe to turn/cross etc. I accept these are a good reason for speed limits, and perhaps they are all the argument that is required that speeding should be considered a serious offence.

      That said, especially on non-built up areas, or on deserted multi-lane roads in the middle of the night, you’d have to do a fair amount of arguing to convince me that was a real correlation between going 80K instead of 70K would “ruin lives.”

      To the extent that “speed” usually has to be combined with additional factors, (following-to-close, driving-while-distracted, alcohol, etc.) I believe it’s the perfect analogy for copyright infringement.

      Copyright infringement for personal use, (the equivalent of going 10K over the limit when on a deserted hiway,) is “wrong,” in that it is not absolutely following the rules. A slap on the wrist to remind you that the rules should indeed apply at all times, (even on deserted hiways,) and off you go. Copyright infringement for personal use causes no harm to the copyright holder. You should be “dinged” on principal, because the same rules should apply to everyone, but there was no demonstrable harm.

      Copyright infringement for the purpose of commercial gain is a whole other kettle of fish. I liken it to “speeding while drinking a coffee, chatting on your cell phone and riding 2cm off the bumper of the car in front of you.” If you don’t cause harm to someone it’s only due to good luck. Copyright infringement for the purpose of commercial gain is very clearly causing financial harm to the copyright holder.

      I admit that the equation here is “financial harm is equivalent to causing physical harm to a human being or their property” but, well…that seems to be what the law is all about. (Otherwise murder/rape/maiming/etc. would not carry similar sentences to “white collar crimes.”)

      The above is only my opinion, I respect that others may feel differently.

      1. Arctic fox

        Being run over....

        by some Jeremy Clarkson-wannabe because the idiot was driving too fast in the area concerned can certainly ruin your life - even end it, can't it? People who commit speeding offences increase very markedly the chances of the _killing_ someone. I do not think that one can compare downloading 24 songs with that. Unless of course the tracks concerned are so incredibly crappy that they represent a major public health hazard!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modern economics rule

    Killing a kid while dui is now cheaper than haveing 24 songs on your pc in a shared directory. Well done lads !

    Off to the boozer it is !

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is not a fine

    People, this is not a fine.

    This is damages.

    All the talk about unfair fines, breaching constitutional rights, comparison to speeding fines and so on misses the point totally.

  22. Tony Paulazzo

    In the UK

    Been trying to work out the math, unemployed single mother on the dole, probably have to pay a tenner a fortnight out of her jsa (assuming food, utilities, kids and catalogues payout - legal requirement to have enough to survive - ie free laptop, booze n fags), so after 40 years she'll have paid about 10 grand back.

    Seems fricking pointless, to actually punish her they should have put her kids in care and given her 3 years prison.

    Or, ya know, changed their marketing practice to turn her into a paying consumer sheep.

    For Gods sake, when did the entertainment business, primarily a waste of time (oh look, you've drawn a picture of a flower I can already see; I like that sound you're humming; wow, you can kick a ball around with some skill; you have an ability to string some words together in a pleasing way), become so insane?

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