Judge in Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas: Merely Making Available Not Enough for Infringement

United States District Court Judge Michael Davis has ruled in the widely publicized Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas case that merely making a digital work available is not enough to constitute infringement, rather the work must be accessed and such access must be proved. Since this was not the instruction given to the jury, Thomas has been granted a new trial.

The judge also commented on the disproportionate size of the awarded damages ($222,000 for 24 songs):

While the Court does not discount Plaintiffs' claim that, cumulatively, illegal downloading has far-reaching effects on their businesses, the damages awarded in this case are wholly disproportionate to the damages suffered by Plaintiffs. Thomas allegedly infringed on the copyrights of 24 songs—the equivalent of approximately three CDs, costing less than $54, and yet the total damages awarded is $222,000—more than five hundred times the cost of buying 24 separate CDs and more than four thousand times the cost of three CDs. While the Copyright Act was intended to permit statutory damages that are larger than the simple cost of the infringed works in order to make infringing a far less attractive alternative than legitimately purchasing the songs, surely damages that are more than one hundred times the cost of the works would serve as a sufficient deterrent.

Read more about it at "Capitol v. Thomas: Judge Orders New Trial, Implores Congress to Lower Statutory Penalties for P2P"; "Judge Declares Mistrial in RIAA-Jammie Thomas Trial"; and "Thomas Verdict Overturned, Making Available Theory Rejected."