For the second time in under a month, a court has confirmed a large statutory damages award against an illegal music downloader. In the latest development in a six-year long dispute over illegal music downloads, the Eighth Circuit issued a unanimous decision last week and reinstated a $220,000.00 jury verdict against Ms. Jammie Thomas-Rasset. Ms. Thomas-Rasset illegally downloaded and distributed music through Kazaa, a peer-to-peer file sharing application.
The Eighth Circuit panel of three appellate judges rejected Ms. Thomas-Rasset’s argument that the $220,000.00 was excessive and violated her due process rights. The panel also approved a broad injunction prohibiting Ms. Thomas-Rasset from further distributing the music:
We conclude that the recording companies are entitled to the remedies that they seek on appeal. The judgment of the district court is vacated, and the case is remanded with directions to enter a judgment for damages in the amount of $220,000.00, and to include an injunction that precludes Thomas-Rasset from making any of the plaintiffs’ recordings available for distribution to the public through an online media distribution system.
This recent decision arises out of a lawsuit brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) that targeted 18,000 individuals for illegally downloading music from websites like Kazaa from 2003-2008. In the first lawsuit, Ms. Thomas-Rasset was accused of illegally downloading over 1,700 files.
After it became clear that a settlement would not be reached, the RIAA filed another lawsuit against Ms. Thomas Rasset on behalf of several major recording labels, including Capital Records Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, UMG Recordings Inc., Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, and Warner Brothers Records Inc.
The Eighth Circuit decision represents the culmination of three trials, with a potential fourth to come. Ms. Thomas Rasset’s attorney described the $220,000.00 as punitive and out of line with Supreme Court precedent. According to her attorney, the decision will likely be appealed to the high court.
This recent decision is the latest from a series of cases brought under the Copyright Act by the major record labels. The Copyright Act permits a copyright owner to recover between $750.00 and $150,000.00 per infringed work. The upward spectrum of damages is reserved for “willful infringers.” In this case, the damage award equates to approximately $9,250.00 per illegal download.
The case is Capitol Recrords Inc et al. v. Thomas-Rasset, No. 11-2820.