We’ve seen some huge judgments in file-sharing cases: the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case involving 24 songs where the damages rose from $222,000 to $1.92 million on re-trial, and now the Joel Tenenbaum case with damages on the order of $675,000 for 20 songs. While Thomas-Rasset’s lawyers will appeal the ruling and the constitutionality of the judgment, consider a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana, issued this week. A man was sentenced in federal court to three (3) years probation with five (5) months home detention for criminal infringement of a copyright. In addition, he was ordered to pay a fine of $5,000 and $100 special assessment.
According to court documents described in the press release, the defendant created counterfeit compilation music CDs containing copyrighted R&B and Blues songs between July and October 1998. He then marketed, distributed, and sold these discs without receiving the permission of the record production companies.
So a criminal prosecution results in probation and a $5100 fine while civil cases result in huge fines?
I do not know how many songs were involved in the criminal copyright infringement case, and I do realize that there has been some inflation since 1998, but even so, the discrepancy between the penalties in this criminal copyright infringement case and the judgments in the two civil copyright infringement suits strikes me as somewhat extraordinary. While states are free to impose their own penalties for violation of their own statutes, some consistency in penalties or damages might be a good idea.
Photo credit: Roll of the Dice by drwhimsy, Flickr/Creative Common License
[edited at 9:03 pm]