Well, that’s one way to make fines for file-sharing look even more arbitrary, astronomical and totally imaginary.
The RIAA battled single mom Jammie Thomas-Rasset in court over 24 tracks the woman illegally shared over Kazaa. Despite Thomas-Rasset’s protests that she hadn’t downloaded the tracks and that other people had access to her computer, she was found guilty and fined $80,000 per song shared over the P2P network. Thomas-Rasset, a woman of fairly modest means, was slapped with a $1.92m fine for her crimes.
Of course, the RIAA did offer to settle before the trial, for the sum of $200,000- more than houses cost in many parts of the US. And the fine ultimately decided upon was nowhere near the fiscal severity of penalties levied typically if Thomas-Rasset had stolen hundreds of CDs each of the entire albums bearing the tracks she’d stolen. But the judicial system had spoken, and the single tracks had a determined value of $80K.
Now Thomas-Rasset has been offered, and will likely decline, a final settlement from the RIAA for the amount of $25,000. Even though it’s far from $1.92M, $25,000 is still a lot of money for such a petty crime. (See Steven’s post on much more serious crimes and comparable fiscal penalties.) And the wild fluctuation in offers only seems to indicate that the damage done to record companies by file-sharing is not very quantifiable. So the case is far from over, and Thomas-Rasset is likely headed to court to further tie up judicial proceedings over the theft of 24 really awful songs.
But what I’d really like to know is whether the record companies were damaged to the tune of $200,000? $25,000? $1,920,000? Maybe a dollar? Maybe a billion? Which is it, RIAA?