Jury awards RIAA $220,000 victory
number THX1139 Jammie Thomas has been handed a verdict in a federal jury trial which could see her coughing up $220,000 in cash for sharing a grand total of 24 songs.
The verdict rests on the RIAA claim that "making available", the simple-to-prove act of creating search-able filenames on a filesharing network, is in itself proof of piracy. So, does this mean that the RIAA's longstanding battle to solidify its "making available" claims is valid, and other cases with similar arguments are a done deal? Not necessarily says attorney Ray Beckerman, "There is no basis in the law for the theory; sooner or later -- when appeals finally start filtering through the system -- the courts will put the kabash on it."
Ms. Thomas' case isn't a unique one. In recent years the RIAA has sued over 20,000 people in the United States, one of the few places in the world which allows recording industry lawyers to pierce the veil of privacy without the substantial burden of evidence proving wrongdoing.
The court awarded the RIAA over $9000 per song shared in compensation for losses, a stiff penalty by any measure, but far below the statutory maximum of $150,000 per song. "A verdict of $222,000.00, for infringement of 24 song files worth a total of $23.76?" says Beckerman, adding, "All the business people who make a living from the vibrancy, democracy, and freedom of expression which is the internet, need to get behind the RIAA's victims; if they do not, the world in which they hope to thrive and prosper will disappear rapidly."