Judge Cuts $2M Penalty In Song-Sharing Case

MINNEAPOLIS -- A federal judge has drastically reduced a nearly $2 million verdict against a Minnesota woman found guilty last year of sharing 24 songs over the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Michael Davis called the penalty "monstrous and shocking" and reduced the $1.92 million penalty a jury imposed against Jammie Thomas-Rasset to $2,250 per song, or about $54,000.

Davis wrote, "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."

Davis also denied Thomas-Rasset's request for a new trial.

He gave the Recording Industry Association of America seven days to either accept the smaller penalty or to ask for another trial to set new damages.

This case was the only one of more than 30,000 similar lawsuits to make it all the way to trial.

The vast majority of people targeted by the music industry had settled for about $3,500 each.


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  • by J Location: Greenville on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:35 AM
    If I was a musician, I would operate on a completely different music distribution model. First of all, you dont need a label anymore. All the tools you need to promote yourself are an internet connection and some marketing savvy, just a touch. Second, I would GIVE AWAY all my songs for free. Why? Because they are incentive for people to pay for the live concert (where the $$$ is anyway). If I want people to drop $$ for the songs, I would make unique limited-release versions and tracks, red/blue/pink vinyl,etc, hand signed, numbered, make it exclusive. People will WANT to buy for collector value. That is how to survive as a musician nowdays, without alienating your fanbase, and getting yourself "out there" and on people's iPods.
  • by OutsideLookingIn Location: ENC on Jan 24, 2010 at 09:17 AM
    I think the light bulb has come on for me. Internet surfing can be tracked by hackers, IT professionals, etc. when people don't understand how to use firewalls/spyware prevention, etc. VHS/DVD recorders and stereos cannot be tracked inside the home. So, there you go. I have read that Tivo can be monitored as well, since it is a service you subscribe to. Include the PPV movies offered by the local cable companies, though you do pay for those as well.
  • by G Location: Greenville on Jan 24, 2010 at 07:45 AM
    I agree... what is the difference between recording a show off tv or recording a movie? If there are fines, they should be what iTunes would charge you for the music. Itunes just raised their prices, no one can afford to download music from only them. I don't know anyone that does.
  • by OutsideLookingIn Location: ENC on Jan 24, 2010 at 05:39 AM
    Okay Bill, but my point is that why is it stealing with the music, but not the song off the radio(cassettes), or the shows/movies/VHS music vid's off the TV(DVD/VHS recorders)? That is my point? Have you ever recorded a movie/show off T.V. Do you consider that stealing also? It's all seems the same to me, just for personal use. By the way, I've never sold or bootlegged anything, which I believe is wrong. I didn't read that this woman did that either.
  • by Bill Location: gboro on Jan 24, 2010 at 03:07 AM
    OutsideLookingIn: dont you get that some of those music stores closed in part BECAUSE people were stealing music instead of buying it. I employ 213 people and some of the interview questions are about matters like this because employees that feel it's ok to steal in one way will still in another. One employee we fired after he was caught selling 5.00 dvd bootlegs, he lost his 56,000.00 a year job for stealing. How about the artist who only sells 125,000 copies of his/her song so the studio will not let them make a second album because sales were slow, but maybe another 500,000 copies were illegally shared?
  • by Good on Jan 23, 2010 at 10:33 PM
    Thieves. All of you. Music stealing thieves.
  • by Nathan Location: Eastern NC on Jan 23, 2010 at 09:41 PM
    She downloaded the equivalent of two albums (24 songs). That is nothing. They should have her pay $50 (rounded up from twice what they sell for on iTunes), maybe sit in jail, maybe pay a fine, in the low hundreds, not in the tens of thousands. As for the industry, they're not losing money. In fact they're wasting it on radio collections like the NOW mixes, kids' music, and other stuff. Rock stars still live large and music industry executives fly on private jets to DC and they buy lawmakers. Copyright laws don't serve the American people, they serve a few suits in Los Angeles and New York City. Still, downloading music is wrong, but it's not $1.92 million wrong and it's not $54,000 wrong. It's about $100 wrong plus double the cost of the Mp3s. Nothing more. Plus, while some artists are opposed (mostly older, established acts) many are in favor of downloading, when it gets more people out to the shows where they make more money anyway. Some bands have even tried to give their Mp3s away.
  • by OutsideLookingIn Location: ENC on Jan 23, 2010 at 01:46 PM
    I've said this before. What is the difference between recording T.V. shows/Movies with VHS/DVD recorders, recording music with cassette recorders/players, and recording/downloading music files on the internet? I see no difference at all. People who want the 'real deal' will still purchase it. Hey, maybe if all the 'music stores' hadn't shut down, people would still purchase music/videos the old way. It was always so cool to walk into the music store, hear a new group playing, watch the vid on the T.V., put on the 'trial' headphones, and 'peruse' the new covers/albums/CD's, etc. They lost a nice 'venue' when those specialty houses closed shop. 'Course, maybe WallyMart/Target closed 'em down.
  • by MusicLover on Jan 23, 2010 at 12:41 PM
    This is so stupid! It's not like it hurts the music business that much. They still have millions of dollars on a regular basis. When they live lives like the most of us who can hardly feed their family for the month without anything extravagant, then we will worry about the money they loose.
  • by RealityCheck Location: Washington Park on Jan 23, 2010 at 10:24 AM
    Two comments about this story: First, $54,000 is still very excessive. This large penalty is a method the courts use to deter people from seeking a trial and essentially extorting them into settling their case, regardless of circumstance. Secondly, for years the music industry has been charging outragous amounts for CDs. If they had charged a resonable price from the beginning, music sharing technology would have had no market appeal and consumers would still be paying a reasonable amount for albums. Too bad all 30,000 of these people didn't take their cases to trial. This would have cost the plantiffs (the music industry) alot more cash on the front end and overloaded the court system.
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