Info and Answers
Minnesota Mom Ordered to Pay $1.92 Million for Illegal Downloads
EFF claims the anti-piracy suit, one of the last vestiges of RIAA's lawsuit frenzy, may be unconstitutional because of the excessive damages.
RIAA is now focusing its anti-piracy efforts on Internet service providers. Jammie Thomas-Rasset downloaded songs from Kazaa before it was legal.
June 19, 2009 by Julie Jacobson

A Brainerd, Minn., woman has to pay recording companies $80,000 per song for 24 titles that she downloaded from file-sharing sites like Kazaa.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset, 32, will owe a total of $1.92 million in damages.

Good luck with that.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press quotes the mother of four: “There’s no way they’re ever going to get that. … I’m a mom, limited means, so I’m not going to worry about it now.”

Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontiers Foundation, suggests that the award could face constitutional challenges.

First, the Supreme Court has made it clear that “grossly excessive” punitive damage awards (e.g., $2 million award against BMW for selling a repainted BMW as “new”) violate the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution. …

Second, recent Supreme Court rulings suggest that a jury may not award statutory damages for the express or implicit purpose of deterring other infringers who are not parties in the case before the court. In other words, the award should be aimed at deterring this defendant, not giving the plaintiff a windfall in order to send a message to others who might be tempted to infringe.

The lawsuit is one of the last vestiges of the recording industry’s anti-piracy campaign. The RIAA said last year that it would stop filing lawsuits like this and will focus on working with Internet service providers to stop illegal file-sharing.

EFF attorney Corryne McSherry says, “This case could end up being the tail end of a frankly shameful and certainly failed campaign to go after users.”

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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