U.S. Eighth Circuit - The FindLaw 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

More Players Join Battle Between File Sharer and Record Company

More players have entered the appellate ring in the first individual file-sharing case to go to trial.

A coalition of libraries, public interest groups, and online privacy advocates filed a joint amicus brief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a reduced damage award against file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset.

The Minnesota mom of four was originally sued by Capital Records in 2006 for copyright infringement. She was accused of posting 24 popular songs on the peer-to-peer file-sharing program Kazaa. After the initial trial and two re-trials, the jury ultimately awarded Capital Records with $1.5 million in damages. The judge, however, called the verdict “so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportionate to the offense and obviously unreasonable” and slashed the award to $54,000.

Capitol appealed the judge’s decision to the Eighth Circuit in August, specifically arguing that the lower court misinterpreted certain terms in the Copyright Act and failed to classify Thomas-Rasset’s actions as a “distribution.” In arguing its position, Capitol presented the theory that making a copyrighted work available to the public is on par with distributing it. Further, it argued that actual damages were irrelevant to statutory damages.

Capitol received its own support in the form of an amicus brief filed last December by the Motion Picture Association of America, which furthered both arguments.

The most recent players which have rallied in support of Thomas-Rasset - including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Internet Archive, and the American Library Association - argued in an amicus brief that reasonable uses of copyrighted material would be discouraged without constitutional due process review of possible statutory damages.

“Fear of crushing liability if you guess wrong about whether a court will decide you are protected by fair use can chill experimentation and the creation of new consumer products and services,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry.

They also urged the Eighth Circuit to adopt the lower court’s interpretation of the term “distribution.”

Until the Eighth Circuit issues an opinion on the case of Jammie Thomas-Rasset, be careful about what you upload.

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