The heart of tech

This article was published on January 22, 2010


    Judge Lowers Penalty For Music Piracy In Thomas-Rasset Case

    Judge Lowers Penalty For Music Piracy In Thomas-Rasset Case
    Michael Klurfeld
    Story by

    Michael Klurfeld

    Michael Klurfeld is a Chicago-based musician and technologist specializing in legal happenings and public policy. You can find him on Twitte Michael Klurfeld is a Chicago-based musician and technologist specializing in legal happenings and public policy. You can find him on Twitter here, or send him an email here.

    no riaaLate last year, the RIAA won a case against Jamie Thomas-Rasset; she downloaded 24 songs, and the courts found that she had to pay $1.92 million in damages, around $80,000 per song.

    Today a district court judge ruled that the initial damages ruling was just far too egregious to justify:

    The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music.

    Instead, Judge Michael Davis lowered the damages to $54,000, which is about $2,250 per song. While this is an improvement, it would still result in Ms. Thomas-Rasset paying 2250 times as much as it would cost to just buy the songs online.

    Under US copyright law (USC 17), damages can reach a maximum of $150,000 per act of infringement. Given that it costs about a buck to download a song legally, it’s easy to see why many have argued that the penalties are too high.

    Judge Davis’ ruling sets a new cap on music piracy fees, assuming it gets treated as legal precedent. After all, Ms. Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of willful infringement, which is the highest form of offence under the law. And while $2250 per song still doesn’t quite seem reasonable, it’s a far more reasonable bound than $150,000 ever was.

    Judge Davis has given the RIAA seven days to either accept the new damages or arrange for a retrial.