The case of “the file-sharing mom” has become notorious worldwide mainly because the fine which defendant Jammie Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay to copyright owners for sharing 24 songs online was simply ridiculous – initially $1.92 million then slashed to $1.5 million last year.
Now recently Judge Michael Davis further slashed the fine to $54,000 calling the previous penalty “appalling” and unconstitutional. That means $2,250 per song instead of the original $62,500.
This isn’t the first time this kind of switch has happened and in fact it’s not even the first time it has happened to Thomas-Rasset herself. Her first two trials ended with penalties of $222,000 and $1.92 million. In each of the previous cases Judge Davis either lowered the jury determined penalty or set it aside all together.
As expected, the news did not make RIAA very happy. The trade group commented on the verdict: “We disagree with this decision and are considering our next steps,” which probably means it wants to fight the decision.
Judge Davis said in his ruling:
“The Court concludes that an award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use is appalling. Such an award is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable. In this particular case, involving a first-time willful, consumer infringer of limited means who committed illegal song file-sharing for her own personal use, an award of $2,250 per song, for a total award of $54,000, is the maximum award consistent with due process.
This reduced award is punitive and substantial. It acts as a potent deterrent. It is a higher award than the Court might have chosen to impose in its sole discretion, but the decision was not for this Court to make. The Court has merely reduced the jury’s award to the maximum amount permitted under our Constitution.”
Finally we get to see some common sense employed here and a level of copyright and file-sharing knowledge superior to previous rulings (and judges) which Davis proved with his decision. He emphasized the aspect of retaliation this lawsuit has taken as music industry seeks to punish one individual for the similar actions of all those whom it didn’t manage to catch.
Since it’s very likely this will not end here we’ll keep you posted as further information rolls in.