DoJ OK with RIAA’s Thomas-Rasset award

The Department of Justice has given an approving nod to a Minnesota court’s ruling that Jammie Thomas-Rasset pay the Recording Industry Association of America $1.92 million in statutory damages for the illegal downloads of 24 tracks on the peer-to-peer site Kazaa.

That amounts to $80,000 per track, a figure Thomas-Rasset is challenging on both constitutional and procedural grounds.

In its brief, the DoJ hearkens back to the dawn of copyright law in America, noting that the original 1790 Copyright Act contained a statutory damages provision, a monetary penalty that has grown in each subsequent iteration of the law.

A 1999 amendment of the 1976 Copyright Act capped damages for willful infringement of a work at $150,000 per offense, in Thomas-Rasset’s case, digital downloads of songs. That means the per-track penalty the court settled on was just slightly more than half the maximum allowed by current copyright law.

The $1.92 million award was the product of the second trial for Thomas-Rasset. Her attorneys are now asking for a third proceeding.

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