RIAA finally gets a filesharing conviction in the US

November 2007

Record labels, internet

The Recording Industry Association of America’s much criticised campaign against individuals who take part in illegal filesharing which costs the industry billions of dollars has finally resulted in a high profile conviction when a jury at the Duluth Federal Court ordered Jammie Thomas to pay the labels $222,000, the sum of $9,250 for each of 24 songs for which the companies sought damages. The lawsuit accused Thomas, a single mother of two, of sharing more than 1,700 songs on the peer-to-peer file sharing network Kazaa. The suit contended that Thomas violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by distributing songs for free that belonged to the record labels. The labels’ international trade body, the IFPI, estimates that 20 billion tracks are downloaded illegally each year and that only 795 million tracks were legally purchased – a ratio of 25 illegal downloads to each legal one. Over 10,000 people in 18 different countries have been threatened with legal action. The legal download market, worth about £1 billion ($2 billion) is worth about 10% of the total market value in recorded. The Head of Sony-BMG litigation, Jennifer Pariser, who testified during the trial made the industry’s position clear saying “it is important for Sony BMG to combat this problem, If we don’t, we don’t have a business”. The case was brought by SonyBMG, Arista Records, Capitol Records, Interscope Records UMG Recordings and Warner Bros. Records. In Washington, D.C., the Recording Industry Association of America issued a statement that the jury’s decision affirms “that the law is clear, as are the consequences for breaking it. … We will continue to bring legal actions against those individuals who have broken the law”.


Democrat Congressman Rick Boucher, criticising the excessive quantum of the award added that rather than suing people Congress should reform the section 115 licence to aid legal downloading and more interestingly added ”I really think the time has come for the recording industry to consider some form of blanket license arrangement that would apply fairly broadly across our society. There are early examples that are very successful for voluntary blanket license arrangements, and what I had in mind are the contracts that the record labels have entered into with a number of universities in this country. Through those contracts, universities pay a lump sum on an annual basis to the record label, and in return for that lump sum payment, the students at that university are able to download and file share among themselves as much music as they want. Given that success and that some amount of illegal file sharing is destined to continue, i think the time has come for the industry to explore some broader applications of that blanket license arrangement. I’m not going to suggest how that can be expanded. Contracts could be entered into with the major ISPs. A blanket arrangement could be entered into with Verizon for example with its DSL and FIOS services, or with AT&T for its broadband services. It could be entered into with even smaller ISPs, whereby for a blanket sum, a lump sum payment, the users of those Internet services would be able to download music from those labels, or from other sites that offer the music.”

CNET http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9792154-7.html?tag=nefd.only

It is likely the case will be appealed: See the excellent CNET article by Declan McCullagh at

http://www.news.com/8301-13578_3-9793438-38.html?tag=nefd.pulse which reviews the legal background to the case and in particular whether ‘making available’ copyrighted material can be an infringement in the USA.

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