Monthly Archives: January 2014

Jury Awards in File-Sharing Cases Add Fuel to Debate on Copyright Act Reform

The cases

Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset

The plaintiffs, Capitol Records, Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Warner Bros. Records, filed suit against Jammie Thomas-Rasset under the Copyright Act seeking statutory damages and injunctive relief in the first file-sharing copyright infringement lawsuit in the US to reach a jury.

After the 2007 trial, Thomas-Rasset was found liable for copyright infringement after she willfully distributed 24 songs on the file-sharing site KaZaA. Thomas-Rasset was ordered to pay $222,000 in statutory damages. Initially, Thomas-Rasset, a mother of four, declined a settlement offer of $5,000. In 2008, the court granted a motion for a new trial, holding that the original jury instructions, which stated that Thomas-Rasset violated copyright owners’ exclusive distribution right by “making available” the copyrighted songs through file-sharing, were in error. After reviewing the precedent and close examination of the Nimmer on Copyright treatise, the court concluded that “making available” did not constitute distribution and granted Thomas-Rasset a new trial. Thomas-Rasset declined a second settlement offer of $25,000.

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