by on October 4, 2007 · 0 comments

As predicted, Ms. Thomas lost her file-sharing case and was ordered to pay more than $200 grand to the recording industry. As much as I dislike a lot of what the RIAA does, I can’t work up too much sympathy for the woman.

One thing that is worth mentioning is that $222,000 seems like an excessive amount of money to fine someone for sharing 24 songs. It’s a basic principle of law that damage awards should have some reasonable relationship to the harm caused by the defendant, and it seems highly implausible that making a single song available online could have caused the recording industry anywhere close to $9,250 in lost revenue. Of course, under copyright law, the jury could have fined her 15 times that amount, which would have been completely absurd.

Update: I can’t find details for Minnesota, but just for purposes of comparison, shoplifting less than $500 of merchandise in New Jersey will get you a $10,000 fine. In Massachusetts it’s $1000, and the same is true of Connecticut. Of course, you can also get jail time for shoplifting even small amounts, but I believe that would require a criminal trial and a higher burden of proof. Most of the seem to have a ceiling around $150,000 in fines for stealing merchandise in the tens of thousands of dollars.

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