The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has lined its pockets with even more cash after an appeal in the United States by American mother of four, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, was quashed with the judge ordered she pay $US222,000 after being found guilty of sharing 24 copyrighted songs on file sharing site Kazaa, reports TechSpot.
Representing four of America’s biggest music labels; Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI music, the RIAA first accused Thomas-Rasset of wilful copyright violation in 2006, in what was one of only two lawsuits to go to trial out of the 30,000 filed by the recording industry representative.
The ordeal has been a tumultuous journey for the Minnesota woman, whom juries have ruled against in three separate trials.
While the majority of lawsuits filed by the RIAA have been settled out of court for sums around $3,500, Thomas-Rasset is being ordered to pay $9,250 per song she has been found guilty of breaching the copyright of.
This however has not been the worst-case scenario. In 2009, Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $1.9 million, or $80,000 per song, in a retrial of the original case.
This was found to be excessive and thus lowered to $54,000 total, before the recent appeal reinstated the original award of $222,000, concluding that the statutory damages were indeed constitutional.
A statement released by the RIAA claimed they were “pleased with the appellate court’s decision and look forward to putting this case behind [them]”, a slap in the face to Thomas-Rasset who has been in and out of court for six years.
In response to the latest ruling, Thomas-Rasset and her lawyers have threatened to continue their defence, in an appeal to the US Supreme Court, claiming that the award is ‘punitive’.
This however does not look promising, as the court refused to hear an appeal of former Boston University student, Joel Tenenbaum in a similar case for an award of $675,000, just this May.
While the heat on online piracy may appear to have cooled in recent years, cases like these confirm the industry’s resilience and adamant stance on the issue.
Despite the argument that the damages award should be a punishment reserved for organised criminals, the recording industry continues to sue easy targets as examples to music downloaders around the world.
It certainly doesn’t look favourable for online pirates as the three-court panel unanimously agreed that the RIAA were not only justified, but rather ‘entitled’ to the immense sum of money they demanded of Thomas-Rasset.
However while labels might have something to celebrate, musicians won’t see a cent of the money. The labels have used all the money generated from successful lawsuits to fund more legal campaigns against individuals and to pay for anti-piracy campaigning.
This ruling comes as reports unearth the surprisingly low impact online file-sharing supposedly has in comparison to offline music sharing and swapping, bringing into question the morality of the RIAA as they continue to drag out figurehead cases such as these.