Appeals court rejects lower court judge's argument that $222,000 for 24 sharing songs was unconstitutional
The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has ruled that single mother Jamie Thomas-Rasset should pay $222,000 for downloading and sharing 24 songs, as this amount was not unconstitutional as ruled by an earlier judge.
This is the decision of the appeal of the last, and third, trial that Thomas-Rasset has been through after the RIAA sued her for copyright infringement in 2007. Apart from the first trial, which was ruled a mistrial, both trials ended up with the judge reducing the astronomical amount of damages that the jury rewarded to the RIAA to $54,000, or $2,250 per song. The latter saw the jury decide that $1.92 million, or $90,000 per song, was justified, while the previous jury decision set the damages at $222,000.
It is this previous decision that the appeals court says should have been valid all along, and that the judge had no rights to overrule the decision based on constitutional grounds.
"On the question of damages, we conclude that a statutory damages award of $9,250 for each of the twenty-four infringed songs, for a total of $222,000, does not contravene the Due Process Clause. The district court erred in reducing the third jury’s verdict to $2,250 per work, for a total of $54,000, on the ground that this amount was the maximum permitted by the Constitution," read the appeals court ruling.
The RIAA welcomed this latest decision. "We are pleased with the appellate court's decision and look forward to putting this case behind us," the RIAA said in a statement.
Thomas-Rasset and her lawyers have vowed to appeal this decision again, all the way to the Supreme Court if needed.
This latest ruling follows one from last month involving a similar case, where the RIAA sued student Joel Tenenbaum also for copyright infringement. The judge in that case ruled that the damages amount of $675,000 for 30 song downloads was not excessive.