Damages Reduced for a Second Time in Illegal Music Sharing Case against Minnesota Woman

Damages Reduced for a Second Time in Illegal Music Sharing Case against Minnesota Woman

As reported by the Duluth News Tribune, U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis has reduced the $ 1.5 million verdict against Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota woman found liable for illegally sharing 24 songs online. The award, which was reduced to $54,000 or $2,250 per song, mirrors Davis' January 2010 remittitur.

In 2007, several recording companies sued Rasset for copyright infringement. A jury found that Rasset wilfully infringed 24 sound recordings and awarded $ 2 million in damages. Rasset moved for a new trial, remittitur, and to amend or alter the judgment.

In granting a remittitur, Judge Davis stated:

The need for deterrence cannot justify a $ 2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music. Moreover, although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages.

The Court has labored to fashion a reasonable limit on statutory damages awards against noncommercial individuals who illegally download and upload music such that the award of statutory damages does not veer into the realm of gross injustice. Finding a precise dollar amount that delineates the border between the jury's wide discretion to calculate its own number to address Thomas-Rasset's willful violations, Plaintiffs' far-reaching, but nebulous damages, and the need to deter online piracy in general and the outrageousness of a $ 2 million verdict is a considerable task. The Court concludes that setting the limit at three times the minimum statutory damages amount in this case is the most reasoned solution.

This award constitutes the maximum amount a jury could reasonably award to both compensate Plaintiffs and address the deterrence aspect of the Copyright Act. This reduced award is significant and harsh. It is a higher award than the Court might have chosen to impose in its sole discretion, but the decision was not entrusted to this Court. It was the jury's province to determine the award of statutory damages and this Court has merely reduced that award to the maximum amount that is no longer monstrous and shocking. Capitol Records Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset, 680 F. Supp. 2d 1045 (D. Minn. 2010) [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers]

The plaintiffs in the case rejected the remittitur in favor of a new trial on damages, which was held in November. In the new trial, jurors imposed a penalty of $62,500 per song or $1.5 million.

Lexis.com subscribers can view motions related to the 2010 remittitur.

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