Recent Cases in Music Piracy

by tylercook on July 9, 2013

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The Stop Online Piracy (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) legislature, which are in congress, argue that online piracy is a problem which is costing the country about $250 billion per year. Apart from that, 750,000 jobs that are related to the music industry are lost every year. This is the reason why there have been high profile cases, in which the pirates were handed down crippling penalties, to serve as an example to other in the vice. Here are some of the cases:

Jammie Thomas-Rasset

In mid-2000, the Recording Industry Association of America, through the Copyright Act, gave cease-and-desist letters to thousands of people who were selling copyright music on their websites, and entered into legal proceedings against them. Most of the pirates opted to settle out of court and paid a few thousand dollars. Rasset was one of two pirates who refused to settle out of court, and the trial proceeded. Eventually, she was ordered to pay $9,250 per song that she was charged with, and this totaled $222,000. She appealed the ruling, and went for a jury trial, where she was ordered to pay $1.5 million. However, a court later found this amount to be unreasonable and reduced the amount to $54,000.

The records company appealed this reduction and took the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which upheld the original $222,000. Thomas-Rasset immediately appealed, and had the case taken to the Supreme Court. The lawyers for the accused argue that the damages are not in keeping with the real value of the songs downloaded. The 24 songs that she downloaded are being sold on iTunes at a dollar each.

Joel Tenenbaum

Joel has been fighting a 10 year battle in order to defeat a $675,000 fine for uploading 30 songs to a file sharing website. The Recording Industry Association of America is the plaintiff, and after the first trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff with $22,500 per song. The law says that the jury can award damages ranging from $750 to $150,000 a song. An appeals court later said that these amounts were “unconstitutional, and cut down the fine to $2,250 per song totaling $67,500.

Last year, another court, under circumstances similar to those of the case mentioned above, against Jammie Thomas-Rasset, reinstated the original fine. The court ruled that the high fines were constitutional since they were imposed in an effort to deter people from pirating music and movies. This was influenced by the Obama administration. The accused later went to the Supreme Court to get a writ of certiorari, but it was denied. He therefore owes the plaintiff, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a total of $675,000.

The Implications

Since the year 2003, there has been a concerted effort to fight piracy in the music industry. Cases have been brought against 35,000 pirates, most of who have opted to settle their cases out of court. In the first case, only 24 songs were uploaded, and in the 2nd case, only 30 songs were sent to the file sharing site. It would have been sensible for these two to pay whatever the producers demanding, even if it was a $100 per song. This would have meant that Jammie would have paid $2,400 and Tenenbaum $3,000.


Frederick Mason is a freelance writer who concentrates on Criminal Defense, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Aviation Law and other areas as well; to learn more from an established legal practitioner visit




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