You win some, you lose some, sometimes to the tune of $220,000

October 4, 2007

Lars Ulrich tumbles through court like “a piece of clothe in the dryer.” 50 bucks if you get this reference.

Perhaps it’s pure irony that the week that Radiohead unleashed it’s “HAHA, Bastards!” pseudo-attack on the record industry with the “pay what you want” download-only (for now) release of In Rainbows, a jury granted the RIAA a $220,000 award in the first ever file-sharing case to go to trial (talk about an expedient judicial process, eh?).

The guilty party is the somewhat appropriately named Jammie Thomas, a single mother from Minnesota. She was fined $9,250 a piece for each of the 24 songs she shared on KaZaa. You could laud the litigation department of the RIAA for this verdict, but personally, I would’ve went after the guy who had 1,000’s of shared files and raked in a cool couple million.

What’s a little disturbing here is this little nugget:

“…[the verdict is] probably something like, oh, say, $222,000 more than she should have had to pay, since the RIAA plaintiffs weren’t required to show that Thomas had a file-sharing program installed on her machine or that she was even the person using the Kazaa account in question.”

Yikes. I smell an appeal.

What’s interesting is the extreme nature of the verdict. While it is well-known that the RIAA usually targets the obvious sources like KaZaa, the minimum fine per song is $750/song. Considering that murderers usually see the “lean” side of the sentencing spectrum (i.e., 8-9 years as opposed to 20, 30, life, etc.), one might ask why the penalty is so steep here.
What’s also interesting is the fact that she didn’t settle, where she probably could’ve have gotten off for a few thousand bucks, especially a few years ago when this nightmare trial undoubtedly started. Moral of the story: don’t share music, especially not on KaZaa, and if you get burned, for goodness sake, settle.

One can only hope that more bands take Radiohead’s cue and make the record industry look more and more stupid. I’m not condoning stealing music. But it’s high time the price of music became on par with the quality more often-than-not delivered.

In related news, I was one of the lucky few banned from Napster by Metallica in 2000.

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