In the Supreme Court the defense team argued that the $9,250 statutory damages award per shared song (24 in total) is unconstitutional. According to Thomas’ lawyers the damages are out of proportion and not in line with any harm the RIAA labels have suffered.
The RIAA disagrees, and they are not alone.
The Obama administration has now chimed in, most likely because this is the first file-sharing case to make it to the Supreme Court. The outcome of the appeal will set a strong precedent for future cases, and in a brief filed on Monday the U.S. informed the Court its position.
“That public interest cannot be realized if the inherent difficulty of proving actual damages leaves the copyright holder without an effective remedy for infringement or precludes an effective means of deterring further copyright violations,” it continues.
Although the Obama administration is not part of the case, it has the right to ask the Court to accept its opinion, just like any other third party. By doing so the Government wants to make sure that file-sharers aren’t able to walk away with a token fine of a few hundred dollars.
“I remember sitting in a focus group of college students and the moderator kept asking the students what would it take them to stop downloading illegally: more than one said, ‘You have to sue me or my roommate. We need to see first hand that getting caught could lead to trouble’,” Lamy said.