Hi everyone, it’s been a while and a new development has taken place in the case. I wanted to both give you a reaction and clear up a couple myths.
We of course disagree rigorously with Judge Zobel’s decision to let the $675,000 damages award stand. The judge states that the award is perfectly reasonable because it could have been as much as $4.6 million, that I was lucky that it was so low, and that I received repeated “warnings” that make me all the more culpable for ignoring.
Claim: It could have been much bigger, so what it stands at must be reasonable.
This argument sidesteps the fact that HR 1761, the Copyright Damages Improvement Act, wasn’t meant to be applied to me, that looking at the original context, I’m both 30 years out of its time, and 180 degrees out of its scope.
First, HR 1761 was a simple increase in damages numbers from the Copyright Act of 1976. 1976 was a year that knew neither the World Wide Web, Napster, Kazaa, nor any kind of remote electronic music copying. Second, the law was written for commercial infringers, people making a business out of selling pirated copies. Never in the 200-some-odd-year history of copyright law have any damage awards been intended for noncommercial infringers. Of course, knowing the original context makes the range of $750-150,000 per song more reasonable: these people could have been making thousands of dollars on thousands of copies, so the justice system needs this range as a way of addressing just how much harm that person’s done in selling illegal copies.
Fact: HR1761 still isn’t applicable to me, since I never sold anything. You may as well try me for murder for a parking ticket, sentence me to 10 years in prison, and then uphold the penalty because the penalty could have been life.
Claim: I received repeated warnings that I ignored, thus deserve a larger penalty.
The first such “warning” was a two-sentence conversation over the phone with my dad, expressing his reservations about music lawsuits. Aside from the fact that I’m pretty sure that my dad was not working with the RIAA, as a teenager in high school, I was then an expert in ignoring my then 60-year-old dad’s advice on all things technological. Um, isn’t that what teenagers do? The other claimed warnings, I imagine, are related to the two paragraphs in ~100-page official student handbook of my college. Putting aside the fact that Goucher College was not remotely involved, that I wasn’t sued for any infringement done on school grounds, and that the lawsuit was for acts committed in high school, I hope you don’t judge me too harshly when I admit that I did not read my student handboook cover-to-cover. Did you read yours?
Fact: The word “warning” is being used very loosely.
Claim: I could have ended this all for $5000
With the very first letter from the RIAA, I took action right away, sending a money order for $500 instead of the $5000 they demanded. At the time, it was all I could afford as a 20-something college student. At one point, I offered $5250, which they declined — saying that too much time had passed and while the offer to settle was once $5000, it was now $10,000. This lawsuit was never in my power to end, and when I tried to make amends, it was rejected. I’m not the one with something to prove out of it and I’m not the one who can call it off. They decided to stop suing users just after Professor Nesson and his students helped me begin to fight back, claiming they saw the fruitlessness of that direction. Yet the RIAA never waivered in carrying out the full force of their aggression against me, against Jamie Thomas, against Brittany Kruger, against Whitney Harper, even when the RIAA had received millions of warnings against doing so and even had admitted in 2008 that the warnings were right.
Fact: I offered $5250 early on, and that didn’t end this.
So what now?
Now, we appeal and continue fighting this. And I, having just defended my thesis, continue my life as before, teaching students in the Boston area about physics and statistics and other things like that.
I am neverendingly grateful for all the support of all the people who have reached out to me, to my supportive friends, to Professor Nesson and his students, and most of all, my parents. This will all be over some day, but until that day I feel you all here with me.