Music download damages set at $2,250 per song by U.S. District Court in Minnesota

By Pat Murphy
The Daily Record Newswire
Due process limited the copyright infringement damages that could be awarded against a music downloader to three times the statutory minimum, a U.S. District Court in Minnesota has ruled in reducing a $1.5 million jury verdict to $54,000.

Recording companies in the music industry sued the defendant for copyright infringement, alleging that she illegally downloaded 24 songs and distributed the recordings via an online peer-to-peer file sharing application.

A jury found the defendant liable and awarded $222,000, but a retrial was ordered which resulted in a $1.92 million verdict. (See “Music industry downloads $1.9 million victory in retrial,” Lawyers USA, June 29, 2009.)

After the music industry refused to accept a reduction in the award, a third trial on damages was held.

A jury awarded $1.5 million, which the defendant contended was unconstitutionally excessive. (See “Music downloading verdict leads to constitutional challenge,” Lawyers USA, Nov. 19, 2010.)

Here, the district court concluded that due process limited the music industry’s damages to $2,250 per song, or three times the minimum statutory damages available under the Copyright Act.

The court said that “an award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use is appalling.

“Such an award against an individual consumer, of limited means, acting with no attempt to profit, is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable.”

U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rassett, No. 0:06-cv-01497-MJD-LIB. July 22, 2011. Lawyers USA No. 993-3110.