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by adam mathes
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Judge Mathes Presiding

The thing I don’t understand about the RIAA suing individual users of file-sharing systems is how they are going to prove damages. That is, how could they be suing people for $150,000 per song? What possible calculation led to that? Is little Timmy sharing a single Britney Spears single really costing somebody $150,000?

And, most importantly, if I was a judge, could I render this judgment -

“I find the defendant guilty of 10 counts of copyright infringement. However, I assess the damages at not $150,000 per infringing song, as the prosecution stated, but at $1.50. Thus the 10 infringements cited are $15, or the cost of one overpriced compact disc. Since this is obviously wasting the civil court’s time, I’m throwing out this suit as frivolous, and the prosecution financially liable for the defense’s legal fees. RIAA, feel free to try again in small claims court but do not waste my, or this court’s, time again with your bullshit.”

So I decided to read up on US Copyright Law - Infringement and Remedies, just in case, I umm, magically become a judge.

Apparently, you can sue over not just actual damages, but also statutory damages.

504. Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits -

Except as provided by clause (2) of this subsection, the copyright owner may elect, at any time before final judgment is rendered, to recover, instead of actual damages and profits, an award of statutory damages for all infringements involved in the action, with respect to any one work, for which any one infringer is liable individually, or for which any two or more infringers are liable jointly and severally, in a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 as the court considers just. For the purposes of this subsection, all the parts of a compilation or derivative work constitute one work.

Me, being a non-lawyer simpleton, thought that you were only allowed to sue somebody for actual damages as a result of copyright violation. Silly me.

And furthermore, 504 Subsection © clause 2 -

In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000.

So that’s where they got the $150,000 number from. In that same clause:

In a case where the infringer sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that such infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted an infringement of copyright, the court in its discretion may reduce the award of statutory damages to a sum of not less than $200.

That is, apparently, Judge Mathes could only reduce the judgment to $2000 for the 10 songs. So I guess I’d just have to rule that it wasn’t actual copyright infringement, or that current copyright law was unfair. Or that the RIAA’s members, with their obvious disdain and hatred for its own customers are exhibiting signs of an illegal cartel and should be investigated for illegal businnes practices. Although, I guess that’s already happened. And they were found guilty. And owe nearly everybody money for inflating CD prices. But at least CD costs went down… oh, wait, no. They didn’t. Hey, did they break up Microsoft and seize all the assets they got through monopolistic business practices yet? Oh, right. I forgot. Our government is corrupt.

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