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Archive for June, 2009

So How Much Money is a Song Worth Anyways?

Saturday, June 20th, 2009
Jammie Thomas-Rasset

Jammie Thomas-Rasset

A jury last week determined the decade old question of just how much money a song is worth if it is illegally downloaded.  The jury’s answer:  $80,000 per song.    Jammie Thomas-Rasset was accussed of illegally downloading 1,700 songs through the file sharing program Kazaa, although she was only prosecuted by the Recording Association of America (RIAA) for illegally downloading 24 songs.   Thomas-Rasset alleged that other people in her family may have been responsible for the downloads, she replaced her hard drive because it was broken and not because of illegal downloads that would have been found on it, and that she never received any sort of cease and desist orders despite the plaintiffs producing such evidence that such messages had been delivered.  http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article6534542.ece

The RIAA said that they tried to settle the case with Thomas-Rasset for a sum of $3,000-$5000 but she refused to settle.   Thomas-Rasset was the first person to refuse to pay a fine and challenge the RIAA in court.  The RIAA, however is still willing to settle the case despite winning a $1.92 Million verdict.

The RIAA is taking the high road on this case and doesn’t want to alienate music fans.  By settling the case for a small sum, the RIAA will deter people from infringing on music, but not alienate fans at the same time by looking like some kind of ogre.  The RIAA said they are moving away from suing individuals for infringment and are trying to work out arrangement with internet service providers to take action against infringers.

Ms. Thomas-Rasset was extremely ignorant and misinformed by her lawyers that she had any chance of winning this case.  The evidence was too concrete and stacked against her from the beginning.  When a case can be settled for a couple thousand versus having to potentially pay millions in damages and lawyer fees, it doesn’t make any sense to try the case.  This is why most rational people settle their infringement cases and move on with their lives.

For a play by play analysis of how the trial went down, check out:  http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/06/jury-selected-in-thomas-retrial-shockingly-law-abiding.ars.
Seattle entertainment lawyer

Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa takes Twitter to Court, Will Probably Lose

Sunday, June 14th, 2009
Tony La Russa

Tony La Russa

The name, image, and likeness of a celebrity or sports figure is viewed by the courts to be the intellectual property of that particular individual.  With the creation of Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, individual’s intellectual property in their names  have the possibility of being infringed upon in a new medium.  Tony La Russa, the St. Louis Cardinals manager, is the first well known celebrity or sports figure to sue Twitter for the actions of an individual who used a name or likeness that didn’t belong to them on a Twitter page. http://www.law.com/jsp/law/careercenter/lawArticleCareerCenter.jsp?id=1202431321477&rss=careercenter

La Russa alleges that an unknown person had been tastelessly using his name and image, tweeting from an account named “TonyLaRussa.”  La Russa’s suit claims that the impersonator is ruining his reputation among other things.  In order to win a case for trademark infringement La Russa would have to prove that the average viewer of the fake Twitter page would confuse the postings as being those of the actual La Russa.  Therefore, because of the nature of the posts (making fun of his drunk driving, and a Cardinals pitcher who had died earlier) it is unlikely that the average person would be confused that the actual La Russa made the offensive “tweets.”

La Russa could have also brought some torts claims against the individual posters who made the tweets for misappropriation of his name and likeness and being portrayed in a false light.  The false light claim would have the best chance to succeed as he would have to prove (1) publication, (2) of views he doesn’t believe, (3) which are objectionable to reasonable person.  Misappropriation of name or likeness requires a person to use another’s name or image for profit which did not happen in this case.  The outcome of a suit of this type would probably be up to a jury to decide.

Celebrities and athletes should be careful in suing their own fans and those that actually follow their careers, especially if any damage is minimal as it is in this case.  Suing fans of the game, could cause a backlash and project a negative image upon a person or sport.  La Russa should have accepted that Twitter agreed to remove the page from the site and move on with his life.  This is a frivolous claim that he will probably lose.

UPDATE 7/7/09:  La Russa pulls Twitter suit –  http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202432045385&rss=newswire

 

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