Last year, the trial judge who presided over the trial of accused file-sharer Jammie Thomas suggested that the jury’s award of $222,000 in statutory damages in the first trial may have been excessive.
So it’s interesting to speculate what the judge might make of the damages a jury just awarded to the record label plaintiffs in the Jammie Thomas retrial: $1.92 million — more than 8 times the amount awarded in the first trial, or $80,000 (based on the jury’s finding of willfulness) for each of the 24 works Thomas infringed. Remittitur motion, anyone?
With a seemingly impecunious litigant like Thomas, it probably makes little difference whether the jury awarded $1,920,000, or $222,000, or “a bazillion kajillion dollars”; I know of nobody who seriously expects the record labels to see more than a tiny fraction of the recompense from Thomas they claim they are owed. And, as I’ve noted before, if you want to campaign for reducing the maximum statutory damage awards for copyright infringement, Thomas is probably not the most sympathetic candidate to make that argument.
It’s certainly an extraordinary number, however, and it just shows how quickly individual acts of file-sharing can pile up into multi-million-dollar liability under current law.
UPDATE: EFF’s Fred von Lohmann ably tees up the constitutional excessiveness issue also raised by Derek following my earlier post. Not a topic upon which I feel qualified to opine, but see Fred’s post and judge for yourself.