Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a Brooklyn judge made a defendant in an RIAA lawsuit very happy when he ordered the RIAA to document the actual expenses incurred per downloaded song.
Copyright law says the RIAA can elect to seek statutory damages “instead of actual damages and profit.” The law also says that $750 is the minimum amount per infringement if you go the statutory route, which explains where the RIAA came up with that ridiculous figure.
But the defendant is claiming that $750 per song counts as an unconstitutional violation of due process because the figure is unreasonably high when compared against the actual value of a downloaded song—and that she should pay the wholesale price per song, which she estimates at 70 cents. By her argument, the $750-per-song fee is 1,071 times higher than the actual damages suffered by the RIAA.
From the judge’s order:
[Plaintiff] shall set forth with more specificity the categories of expenses they incurred in making the song recordings, such as, for example, royalties. Plaintiffs shall also state with specificity which categories of expenses, if any, (a) they are unable to quantify or (b) they cannot quantify without unreasonable burden or expense–and in the latter event, they shall explain why.
The RIAA has two weeks to comply—we’re curious to see what they’ll come up with, or if they’ll just get their legal team (who probably work for two-thirds of a downloaded song per hour) to come up with some really elaborate excuses.
“RIAA Must Divulge Expenses-Per-Download” [Slashdot]
pdf of electronic filing of the judge’s order [Pike & Fischer]
“§ 504. Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits” [Cornell University Law School]