“Appalling” $1.5m File-Sharing Verdict Slashed To $54,000

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A federal court has slashed the verdict in an infamous file-sharing case from $1.5 million to 'just' $54,000. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis branded an earlier jury decision in favor of the RIAA and against Jammie Thomas-Rasset as "appalling." Judge Davis has now overruled a jury three times in this case. The RIAA are reportedly unhappy with the verdict and are considering their options.

Back in November 2010, Jammie Thomas-Rasset lost her re-retrial against the RIAA.

The jury found her guilty of infringing the rights of Capitol Records and awarded a $62,500 fine per song punishment.

Sharing just 24 songs using the file-sharing client Kazaa was set to cost her a cool $1.5 million.

But now, following a decision by a federal court, that verdict has been slashed to ‘just’ $54,000. In delivering his verdict, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis slammed the November decision.

“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,” Judge Davis wrote in his verdict.

“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.”

This latest verdict marks the third occasion that Judge Davis has overruled the decision of a jury in the RIAA’s case against Rasset-Thomas.

In 2007 a jury hit Jammie Thomas-Rasset with a $222,000 verdict. She appealed and in 2008 a mistrial was declared. Judge Davis ruled that the fines were “disproportionate to the damages suffered.”

The case went for re-trial before a new jury in 2009 and a guilty verdict was reached yet again, this time with even harsher fines. Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $80,000 per infringement, a massive $1.92 million in total.

Just a few months on and this amount was slashed to $54,000 when the award was deemed unconstitutional.

In November 2010 the appeal of the retrial was heard and once again the RIAA and Capitol Records came out on top. The jury decided that Thomas-Rasset had to pay a $62,500 fine per shared song, a total of $1.5 million, a verdict which has today been overturned by Judge Davis.

Today’s decision is unlikely to mark the end of the road in this case. The RIAA are said to be dissatisfied with the result and are reported to be considering their options.

Lawyer Ben Sheffner, who broke the news, posted a copy of the decision online (embedded below).

Order on Motions to Amend/Alter Verdict in Capitol v. Thomas-Rasset


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