File-sharing trials: RIAA's never-ending dilemma

After a judge reduced a file-sharer's $1.92 million penalty to $54,000, the defendant's lawyers vow to challenge that fine

Lawyers for music file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset said Monday they would challenge a recent court decision ordering their client to pay a reduced fine of US$54,000 to the Recording Industry Association of America. The ruling handed down by U.S. Federal District Court Judge Michael Davis on Jan. 22 also gives the RIAA until Friday to accept the reduced fine or ask for a third trial against Thomas-Rasset. The RIAA has not said what it intends to do, according to Wired.

The Beat Goes On

On Friday, Judge Davis reduced Thomas-Rasset's $1.92 million penalty handed down last year by a jury to $54,000. In his ruling, Judge Davis called the $1.92 million fine "monstrous and shocking," and said the RIAA's "need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs." Joe Sibley, Thomas-Rasset's attorney, believes the new fine is not much better than the original penalty and is still excessive. "It's the difference between Joseph Stalin and the Khmer Rouge," Sibley told Wired.

Sympathetic Judge

Although he may take issue with Sibley's histrionics, Judge Davis has been sympathetic to Thomas-Rasset's plight on several occasions. In his Jan. 22 decision, Judge Davis said the $54,000 fine was "a higher award than the Court might have chosen to impose in its sole discretion." Davis was also the judge who overturned Thomas-Rasset's original fine of $222,000 in 2008, calling that fine "wholly disproportionate" to the actual damages the RIAA incurred.

Plaintiff's Dilemma

For the RIAA, the decision over whether to ask for a new trial is a difficult one. If the RIAA goes for a new trial, Judge Davis' decision to reduce the fine, known in legal parlance as remittitur, may hang over further court proceedings and prevent the jury from coming back with a higher fine.

There's also the question of how far the RIAA wants to push this trial. The RIAA is no longer suing private individuals, and Thomas-Rasset is one of only two active file-sharing cases. If the RIAA is hoping to reform its image after the public ire its lawsuit campaign inspired, settling the Thomas-Rasset case would be a good first step. Although that may be impossible if Thomas-Rasset intends to fight any monetary compensation awarded to the RIAA.

Thomas-Rasset was originally ordered in 2007 to pay $222,000 to the RIAA for downloading 24 songs and sharing them on the file-sharing service Kazaa. Thomas-Rasset, then known as Jammie Thomas, won an appeal to have a new trial, but received an even harsher fine of $1.92 million. Joel Tenenbaum, the only other individual to opt for a trial instead of settling with the RIAA out of court, is appealing a $675,000 fine awarded to the RIAA in December.

Connect with Ian Paul on Twitter (@ianpaul).

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?