At the same time Lady Gaga takes over the Social Media spotlight from the President, Prince announces that the Internet is nowhere and his next album will only be a CD. No surprise what Lady Gaga is doing since “Gaga’s Facebook fans organized “National Lady Gaga Day.” The accompanying Event had more than 100,000 attendees.” So I guess Prince has missed this big picture altogether since Prince proclaimed “all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you." Hard to imagine that the formerly known music star can be so far off base. Given all the negative impact from the proposed Presidential “Internet Kill Switch” it seems to me that the economy of the world would suffer by shutting down the Internet. Culture today depends on a vibrant Internet, and I guess it makes more sense to follow Lady Gaga rather than Prince….not too hard to figure out!

Music Infringement Verdicts Reduced

At the same time Lady Gaga sets the gold standard and Prince doesn’t get it, Judges are reducing jury verdicts for music Copyright infringements significantly. After a second Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) trial against Jammie Thomas-Rasset’s for Copyright infringement, a jury ruled that the damages were $1.92 million for distributing 24 songs. US District Judge Michael Davis reduced the verdict to $54,000 ($2,250 per song) in January, 2010. Earlier this month US District Judge Nancy Gertner reduced the jury verdict against Joel Tennebaum by 90% ruling that $22,500 per song infringement that there “is no question that this reduced award is still severe, even harsh.” In the trial against Tennebaum, a Ph.D. student at Boston University, the RIAA proved that he downloaded 30 online songs. Judge Gertner wrote:

It not only adequately compensates the plaintiffs for the relatively minor harm that [Joel] Tenenbaum caused them; it sends a strong message that those who exploit peer-to-peer networks to unlawfully download and distribute copyrighted works run the risk of incurring substantial damages awards.

My experience in copyright infringement litigation is that proving damages is not simple. Each case is unique, so the jury must make a determination how willful the infringement is, and then can penalize an infringer up to $150,000 per infringement. Courts will continue to grapple with Copyright infringement constitutional size of damages.  The Tennebaum and Thomas-Rasset cases are important to help understand how juries and judges value online music. Perhaps Prince should spend more time with Social Media so he can get with it, because otherwise he may disappear entirely!

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