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Judge limits RIAA damage award for "Innocent Infringement"

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 11 Aug 2008 16:54 User comments (8)

Judge limits RIAA damage award for "Innocent Infringement" Whitney Harper has already admitted to sharing files illegally on a P2P network when she was 16, just as the RIAA claims. But that didn't stop US District Court Judge Xavier Rodriguez from ruling in her favor last Thursday. You see even though she was clearly infringing on copyrights she says she didn't realize it at the time, and according to Judge Rodriguez that means she can only be penalized for "Innocent Infringement."
Despite what the record labels would like you to believe copyright law isn't written with a one-size-fits-all approach in mind. To rule in favor of their lawyers in this case he would have had to agreed that any 16 year old understands copyright law simply because there are cryptic warnings on commercial CDs.

Clearly he didn't buy that argument though. In his ruling he said “Plaintiffs have not introduced any evidence to contradict that Defendant did not have an understanding of the nature of file-sharing programs and copyright sophisticated enough to have reason to know that her actions infringed Plaintiffs’ copyrights.”

As a result he's limiting the damages to a mere $200 per song, rather than the $750 minimum asked for by RIAA lawyers. However this is only a partial victory. As lawyers like Ray Beckerman have pointed out, the actual damages for a single download of a song amount to less than $1. While RIAA and MPAA lawyers like to claim it's really a fine for making the song available, and therefore actually must account for multiple downloads, that's simply not true under the law.

In fact, the actual reason for such steep fines is the laws weren't written with individual infringement cases in mind. Instead they're intended to punish commercial piracy, with penalties that assume a commercial operation of some kind.

As the labels themselves are quick to point out when defending themselves against infringement claims, damages that are hundreds of times the damage suffered are generally considered unconstitutional. This is an issue that has yet to actually be addressed by the courts in the RIAA's P2P cases, largely because most defendants don't get a chance to argue their cases in court.

As more cases find their way into the courtroom and other entities like universities get involved judges are getting a clearer picture of the RIAA's actual arguments and they don't seem to like them much.

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8 user comments

111.8.2008 17:27

I'm waiting for the day when a judge finally says "ENOUGH" and puts the final nail in the coffin of the RIAA and their cronies. From what I've been seeing as of late online as I follow the sordid tale of so called copy write infringement for downloading music that the RIAA has deemed we the consumer shouldn't be allow access to because it costs them money.

I see a trend appearing as more and more holes are shot in their "so called" evidence provided by their "so called" non-investigative company, Media Sentry, who uses tactics like hacking into private computers, impersonating family members, threatening schools and universities with broad brush "john doe" warrants and then threatening to have the school pay millions in fines if they don't co-operate.

The day is coming when a major class action lawsuit will be set before the court by all those so called infringers that the RIAA has made claim to their monies. Their idea of awards is simply ludicrous and should and more than likely is giving the courts a true picture of just who the thief is here.

The RIAA and the MPAA both insist that evidence is not needed to prove file sharing, and the courts are laughing them out of the building, much to the dismay of their lawyers. The "experts" that are presenting their proof to the courts cannot tell the courts if there IS any type of music or video file ensconced there because they aren't trained in those matters.

Look at the case of the billionaire who bought a DVD of "MEET THE FOKKERS" and then received a phone call from the MPAA's lawyers stating that he had downloaded it off the net and they wanted him to settle for $5,000.00 which he refused stating he had the receipt from the store and wasn't going to pay them a thing. Despite that they called again offering to settle for 10,000.00 this time, and again they were told to get lost and that his lawyers would be in touch with them.
Their answer," We can hardly wait to get him into court because HE knows he downloaded it."

His reply, " I'll spend up to 100,000.00 in attorney fees if I have to, because I'm sick and tired of how the RIAA and the MPAA treat the consumer, their customers."

Sorry for the long dissertation, but my point is, they are losing and beginning to realize that their threats and scare tactics aren't working anymore, which is one of the main reasons, to my mind, why they are throwing in the towel in more and more cases.

Here in Canada, our Prime Minister has just passed a law making downloading illegal and subject to fines of 500.00 and up for doing so. I'm also told that the ISP's are being forced to monitor our usage of the net and the forward that information to a company in the States, where it's stored until needed for court cases, if need be.

I believe I can make an argument against that as they are recording all data, that includes programs we buy including our credit card numbers, etc, which is an invasion of privacy and a huge security risk if the information is ever hacked.

Just my two cents, for those interested.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 11 Aug 2008 @ 17:28

211.8.2008 18:49

this is not good enough. we need to reverse the trend started by the RIAA & MPAA and there painfully obvious illegal companies.

We need a label created by the artists for the artists, and put the bullet through the Media Mafia's Head in other words wipe the slate clean and start again. its the only true way to get rid of this nonsense.

Where there is money, there is power, where there is power, there is greed, where there is greed, there is Politicians, where there is Politicians, there is no hope for Change.

its just like Cigarette Companies getting away with poisoning the Tobacco, to make it addicting. They new if they let this pass the government would see major profit increase across the board. they did
and here we are are fathers are dying because of the poison they smoke
every day up too one pack a day, who's fault is it, its the very men we follow the rules they set, we abide.

Tobacco by itself is not harmful, grow your own roll your own and live long.

311.8.2008 19:11
cousinkix
Inactive

Quote:
Tobacco by itself is not harmful, grow your own roll your own and live long.
That's until you are busted by the G men. Cultivating your own chemical and tax free tobacco plants is just as illegal as growing marijuana. Pot is just more profitable and grows outside of that regional North Carolinaand Tennessee farm belt...
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 11 Aug 2008 @ 19:12

412.8.2008 0:19
susieqbbb
Inactive

Good news to hear.

I mean if the Riaa wants to stop people from illegally downloading music then go after the networks or the manufactures of the software that allows this kind of distrubution.

Problem with this most of these p2p networks are located in countrys where the Riaa should have Zero rights.

The riaa is based in the us this doesn't give them the right to search and with hold machines in the u.k and other countrys it is called the right to a fair trial not we are the riaa and we dont have to listen to anyone.

512.8.2008 4:01

Originally posted by susieqbbb:
Problem with this most of these p2p networks are located in countrys where the Riaa should have Zero rights.

We can only hope it will stay that way...

612.8.2008 15:13

Quote:
its just like Cigarette Companies getting away with poisoning the Tobacco, to make it addicting... and here we are are fathers are dying because of the poison they smoke...
We're way off-topic here... But,do you know that nicotine is found naturally in tobacco? Where do you think they get the nicotine for nicotine gum and nicotine patches? Do you know that people were “addicted” to tobacco long before cigarettes were commercially manufactured?




Quote:
Tobacco by itself is not harmful
That's the most ignorant thing I've read on this forum! That's what the tobacco companies used to say!

Sure, its not harmful till you smoke or chew it! Do you know that companies used to market “healthy’ cigarettes before lawsuits and the government put a stop to those false marketing claims? Do you know that you can buy "natural" cigarettes, but they still carry the required health warnings (here in the US).

People have known that smoking was “harmful” long before it was scientifically proven to cause cancer. They used to tell kids that it would “stunt your growth”, and athletes knew it would "take away your wind". Common sense (and your body's initial reaction) tells you that “breathing smoke” is bad for you!

If you live in the US, I’m sure you heard the required warning – “There is no such thing as a safe cigarette”. It’s true!

712.8.2008 15:48

Quote:
That's until you are busted by the G men. Cultivating your own chemical and tax free tobacco plants is just as illegal as growing marijuana.
According to this source it is legal to grow your own tobacco.

I dont know anyone who grows tobacco in their garden, But you are not taxed (in the USA) when you grow fruits & vegetables for your own consumption (or if you fix your own car or do your own plumbing). And, there are no taxes due if you give-away your fruits, vegetables, or labor. Technically, you do owe taxes if you barter (trade) with your neighbors.

Quote:
Pot is just more profitable and grows outside of that regional North Carolinaand Tennessee farm belt...
Illegal businesses are almost always more profitable (for a given amount of invested capital & effort) than legal businesses. That's economics 101... You don't take more risk unless there is more potential reward. Some illegal activities like theft and extortion are pure profit!

81.9.2008 10:47
lemmok
Inactive

Never mind copyright and this fiasco of legal self invention. What about struggling musicians and composers who must suffer the indignity of having their material stolen by the 'big boys' and those who profit escape with impunity because their 'produce manufacturing company' of 'record labels' have the big bucks to defray any realistic case for the true owners seeking recompense. If you hear something in the air who owns it? or did the tree fall or was it the dull thud of corruption. Has anyone ever tried suck back in an inappropriate public statement. The lawyers and the 'big bucks' are just another extended fiasco of the business of illusion within the media industry and if the poor were not being persecuted it would be just another sick joke. If it wasn't for the media exposure of 'bootlegging' or 'piracy' would these clowns be getting the exposure at all? Maybe one day the powers that think the are will realize why buy an album when only one or two tracks are worth hearing??? Waiting on a judge is like waiting on the second coming. They are even a greater part of the fiasco than lawyers and executives.

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