Judge slashes Thomas-Rasset's $1.5m punishment to $54,000

By on July 22, 2011, 5:55 PM

The infamous saga between Jammie Thomas-Rasset and the RIAA continued today following an update in pair's third trial. Having already been found guilty of willful copyright infringement in 2007 and again during the conclusion of 2009's retrial, the third case has focused on precisely how much Thomas-Rasset should pay for her actions -- something that neither party has been able to agree on over the years.

In the original trial, a jury awarded the RIAA $222,000 ($9,250 for each of the 24 pirated songs), and that fee ballooned to $1.92 million ($80,000 per track) in 2009's verdict. However, presiding judge Michael Davis intervened and cut the award to $54,000 ($2,250 per song), calling the initial sum "monstrous and shocking," noting that the reduced fee was probably still more than the court would've imposed at its own discretion.

Shortly thereafter, the RIAA offered to drop the case for a $25,000 settlement, but Thomas-Rasset declined. That prompted the recording industry to reject Davis' $54,000 award, thus birthing a third trial to re-determine the damages. In November 2010, a jury awarded the RIAA $1.5 million ($62,500 per song). Thomas-Rasset argued the fee was unconstitutional and requested that it be lowered to an amount less absurd.

Bringing the case full circle today, judge Davis has again slashed the $1.5 million punishment to $54,000. "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," Davis said, noting that $54,000 is the maximum award consistent with due process.

"This reduced award is punitive and substantial. It acts as a potent deterrent. It is a higher award than the Court might have chosen to impose in its sole discretion, but the decision was not for this Court to make. The Court has merely reduced the jury’s award to the maximum amount permitted under our Constitution," he continued. "Although Thomas-Rasset played a role in the web of online piracy, she played a minuscule role."

Considering Thomas-Rasset's previous refusal to pay $25,000 and the RIAA's initial denial of the lesser $54,000 award, you can bet the battle will continue. In fact, an RIAA spokesperson told Ars Technica that it disagrees with the decision and is weighing its options. Meanwhile, Kiwi Camara, Thomas-Rasset's attorney, said that he's sure the recording industry will appeal and he's already prepared to file a cross-appeal as well.

User Comments: 11

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treetops treetops said:

Why don't they just charge the same amount you would be charged for say stealing a cd or 2 from a store? Physical copies cost more to make yet have steeper penalty?

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Yeah thats a pretty good point and I guess it would also be under willful copyright infringement.

mishmosh said:

If pirating is stealing, shouldn't the punishments be equated with stealing and nut in the hundreds of thousands or millions? If I steal a cd from borders, would I have to pay $80,000 for each song on it as penalty?

Eddo22 said:

Dear courts: $54000 "is appalling".

From: Someone who can't stand greed.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

I want to know how they came up with this figure.

"LimeWire and the RIAA finally put the suit to rest with a $105 million settlement."

Limewire allowed the distribution of literally millions of songs. Even if Limewire only distributed 1 million songs, That would only be $105 per song. Jamie Thomas only 24 if I remember correctly. She has to pay $2250 per song. While I am not saying either party was right in what they were doing, shouldn't there be a little consistency in the penalties?

Yes I know,who said life was fair, but still..

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

the really question is will hackers have a heart for this guy or not?

herpaderp said:

stewi0001 said:

the really question is will hackers have a heart for this guy or not?

First, it's a woman, and second, wat?

Guest said:

So this settlement was awarded by a jury of our "peers"? Unfortunately, anybody with a pulse is considered my peer.

Guest said:

Where is anonymous?

TJGeezer said:

Any finding not favoring the wealthiest party will probably be overturned by the corporate lawyers posing as "justices" in the current Corporate Supreme Court.

HiDDeNMisT HiDDeNMisT said:

All I can say is wow. The gov't is taking this to a whole new lvl

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