Digital Piracy Battles: RIAA Wins One, Loses One
December 5, 2007 at 11:40 AM (PT)
The RIAA's digital piracy war continued to be fought on several battlefields, with the victories and losses doing little to bring the issue to any sort of resolution.
In a move welcomed by the RIAA, the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE has determined that the $222,000 damage award for copyright infringement against defendant JAMMIE THOMAS is constitutional and, in this case, not excessive.
The 20-page brief responded to a motion by THOMAS that challenged the constitutionality of the jury ruling. Acting Assistant Attorney General JEFFREY BUCHOLTZ said that "Given the findings of copyright infringement in this case, the damages awarded under the Copyright Act's statutory damages provision did not violate the Due Process Clause" of the Constitution, and that the fine was not "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense...."
In her verdict appeal, THOMAS argued that the damages were far in excess of any actual damages that the music labels might have incurred as a result of her actions. Since the labels made just around 70 cents per song, even the minimum statutory damages of $750 were excessive.
The DOJ countered by asserting that the statutory damages provision in the Copyright Act were crafted to create both compensation and a deterrent effect. "Although defendant claims that plaintiffs' damages are 70 cents per infringing copy, it is unknown how many other users -- potentially millions -- committed subsequent acts of infringement with the illegal copies of works that the defendant infringed," BUCHOLTZ said. "It is impossible to calculate the damages caused by a single infringement, particularly for infringement that occurs over the Internet."
Oregon Stops RIAA In Its Tracks
Meanwhile, the OREGON Attorney General's office has filed an appeal in a U.S. District Court in order to investigate evidence the RIAA presented to subpoena the identities of 17 University of OREGON students. In NOVEMBER, OREGON Attorney General HARDY MYERS turned down requests by the RIAA to force the university to turn over the names of individuals it says shared music illegally.
According to the state's brief, "The record in this case suggests that the larger issue may not be whether students are sharing copyrighted music," but in the questionable ways the RIAA gets the information. According to PCWORLD, the briefs note that the data mining techniques used by the RIAA only show evidence of copyrighted music files, as well as the software that enables users to share files. However, it can not prove that the files were obtained illegally -- only that there was a potential for misuse.