DoJ reacts to the Thomas-Rasset case

In June 2009, a Court sentenced Jammie Thomas for $1,9 million as statutory damages award. Meanwhile, Jammie Thomas has moved to the Court to either alter the judgment because the statutory damages award is unconstitutional, or remit the award, or grant a new trial because some evidences should not have been admitted.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) reacted against the first issue, ie, the unconstitutionality of the statutory damages award. Argument I of the published document recommends the Court to solve the case with the two last arguments (remittitur, and new trial due to unacceptable evidence. In other words, avoid to go on the constitutional battle ground.

But the most interesting part is in argument II. DoJ examines the issue of constitutionality of the statutory damages award. In short, the purpose of statutory damages is to compensate the plaintiff for damages that are hard to evaluate, as copyright infringements. Furthermore, Doj sheds some lights on their goals:

The Copyright Act’s statutory damages provision serves both to compensate and deter.

(page 17)

The message towards the infringing users is even clearer:

The current damages range provides compensation for copyright owners because, inter alia, there exist situations in which actual damages are hard to quantify. Furthermore, in establishing that range, Congress took into account the need to deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights in an environment where many violators believe that they will go unnoticed.

(page 3)

Since 1999, the range is between $750 and $30,000 per infringed works in case of non willful violation. If willful, it raises to $150,000. Thus, the $80,000 is in the middle of the range.

Let’s see what the Court will decide.

PS: DoJ’s document is interesting to read although tough (as most legal paper)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *