Way back in 2006, The yeezy pas cher Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a woman named Jammie Thomas-Rasset as a result of Thomas-Rasset’s use of the Kazaa peer-to-peer protocol to download and share music. The case was one of many thousands filed by the RIAA, most of which settled out of court for sums of approximately $3500. Thomas-Rasset, however, declined to settle with the RIAA, and decided to take her chances in court.
What ensued is one of those long, winding tales of litigation that pepper the history of American jurisprudence, one that highlights one of the more controversial aspects of copyright law: statutory damages.
The short version of that story is as follows:
The first jury to hear Thomas-Rasset’s case awarded damages of $222,000 – which works out to $9250 per song for the 24 tracks at issue in the case (the RIAA notes that it could have included hundreds of other songs in its complaint). Having found her to be a “willful infringer,” the jury could have awarded as much as $150,000 per song to the RIAA — so up to $3.6 million for the 24 songs in question.
The district court judge termed the jury’s award to be “oppressive” and “unprecedented,” and ordered a new trial. Unfortunately for Thomas-Rasset, the second jury was even less sympathetic to her than the first, and ultimately awarded damages of $80,000 per song, yielding a total of $1.92 million. The judge liked that sum even less than the original (calling it “shocking” and “monstrous”) and entered a remittitur reducing the damages to $2,250 per song, for a total of $54,000.
As you might expect, the RIAA wasn’t too keen on having damages of $1.92 million reduced to 54 grand, so it refused to accept the remittitur, leading to a third trial for Thomas-Rasset.
The third jury came up with a sum closer to the second jury than the first; $62,500 per song and $1.5 million total. Again disagreeing with the damage amount, the court granted a motion to reduce the judgment back to $54,000, finding that the higher award violated the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district court had erred by applying the wrong standard in reviewing the federal statutory damages award. Along the line, the appellate court determined that the original jury award of $222,000 was constitutional, and reinstated those damages.
That development brings us to the latest development in the case; rather than accept the reduced damages ordered by the appellate court, Thomas-Rasset’s attorneys have petitioned for the Supreme Court to hear the case, asserting that various judicial districts around the country are split on the question of which legal standard should apply to reviewing statutory damage awards.
Will the Supreme Court hear the case? Even if it does, there’s no guarantee the Supremes will see things Thomas-Rasset’s way, but it could lead to a review of statutory damages in copyright cases on the part of Congress — which is the most likely path to any sort of change in how statutory damages are handled, anyway. The Court, even if it doesn’t like how such damages are awarded, or the sums they are awarded in, may well punt the issue back to Congress, simply because fundamentally changing the existing statutory damages structure is not within its purview.http://www.kanyewestyeezy.fr