A Minneapolis jury awarded a number of recording companies damages for willful infringement of 24 songs in the only trial for file-sharing by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) of the estimated 30,000 lawsuits they filed before ceasing litigation last year. The RIAA settled most lawsuits for about $3,500 and now the RIAA stopped filing suits and is working with ISPs to stop file-sharing.
The first jury trial in 2007 resulted in a verdict of $222,000 but the federal judge vacated the verdict as result of improper jury instructions. Apparently the second jury was also convinced that Jammie Thomas-Rasset willfully infringed 24 songs by file-sharing and awarded damages of $80,000 per song. Ms. Thomas-Rasset, a single mother of four, asserts that she cannot pay these damages.
Under the 1976 Copyright Act damages for willful infringement damages could be as high as $150,000. So in both of Ms. Thomas-Rasset’s trials the juries concluded that she was a willful infringer. The fact that the RIAA stopped filing lawsuits was based on the large number of alleged infringers bespeaks volumes about the fact that file-sharing is a very large problem on the Internet, and litigation may not be the best way to solve the problem.
Apple to the Rescue
In 2001 when the 9th Circuit upheld infringement claims for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement against Napster under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) there were many requests for the US Congress to reform the Copyright Act and the DMCA since that the Internet had changed the way people listen to music, however neither the Copyright Act nor DMCA were changed. Actually Apple solved the problem by introducing the iPod and allowing people to inexpensively downloading music, tv shows, and movies. Not only did the iPod solve this copyright problem it also improved Apple’s financial circumstances and market share.