Originally posted 2011-12-05 10:40:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
Glenn Reynolds links to a an article in Wired about a newspaper “chain”‘s — actually, lawyer Steve Gibson’s — “new business model”: Suing bloggers who post newspaper articles, evidently more or less intact ones, on their sites. Glenn says suing bloggers “seems like a poor business plan” — mainly, of course, because most bloggers are broke, or pretty close to it.
The article also explains why these one-off claims by outfits such as the Las Vegas Review-Journal are unlikely, in the long run, to pay off. One reason is that at least the music industry, through the Recording Industry Association of America, is theoretically going for some degree of bulk in its litigation trawling against unlawful file sharing. And we did say “theoretically”: Remember, in 2008 the RIAA managed to spend about $16 million on legal fees to reel in a whopping $391,000. As the article says, “You’d have to go after a lot of people for a relatively small amount of money,” says Jonathan Band, a Washington, D.C. copyright lawyer. “That is a riskier proposition.”
So, yes, it is hard to comprehend the return on investment here.
There are other reasons this doesn’t seem to make sense. “Defendants might be less willing to settle a lawsuit stemming from their posting of a single news article, despite the Copyright Act’s whopping damages,” says the article. But no, not quite on the “whopping damages” stuff. Contrary to myth — and to the threats routinely uttered by copyright plaintiff attorneys — statutory damages are not meant to be a windfall, as I explain at some length here. Now it is true that some juries think intellectual property infringement damages are a jackpot unrelated to actual harm — usually because judges don’t instruct them properly. But other judges in high profile cases are refusing to be part of the copyright shakedown. Thus in the recent Tannenbaum copyright case, the District Judge reduced the jury’s damages award of $675,000 for infringement of 30 songs to $67,500, ruling that the amount awarded was unconstitutional under the Due Process clause.
Still, $67,500 is a lot of money, a lot, and still pretty darned distant from any plausible quantum of loss to the copyright owner. Read More…