DOJ Endorses $9,250 Per-Song Pricing Scheme
A $9,250 per-song fine might seem an excessive punishment for illegally sharing music for no personal gain, but it’s really not. According to the U.S. Justice Department, anyway.
The DOJ says the $222,000 in damages awarded to the Recording Industry Association of America in the Virgin Records America et al. v. Thomas copyright-infringement case is constitutional. Seems it didn’t quite buy Thomas’s argument that fining someone – particularly a single mother of two – $222,000 for songs that could be bought for $24 on iTunes violates a Supreme Court precedent that prohibits fines that are “so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense or obviously unreasonable.”
From the DOJ’s brief:
Although defendant claims that plaintiffs’ damages are 70 cents per infringing copy, it is unknown how many other users–‘potentially millions’–committed subsequent acts of infringement with the illegal copies of works that the defendant infringed. Accordingly, it is impossible to calculate the damages caused by a single infringement, particularly for infringement that occurs over the Internet. Furthermore, plaintiffs contend that their witnesses ‘testified to the substantial harm caused by the massive distribution of their copyrighted sound recordings over the Internet, including lost revenues, layoffs and a diminished capability to identify and promote new talent…’
“Most recently, Congress has crafted a statute that serves as a deterrent to those infringing parties who think they will go undetected in committing this great public wrong, as well as providing compensation to copyright owners who have to invest resources into protecting property that is often unquantifiable. Accordingly, given the findings of copyright infringement in this case, the damages awarded under the Copyright Act’s statutory damages provision did not violate the due process clause…”