Justice Department Says $222,000 Damages Awarded to RIAA in File-Sharing Suit Not "Obviously Unreasonable"

The Department of Justice says that the $222,000 verdict—over $9,000 a song—Jammie Thomas got slapped with for file-sharing when she (somewhat feebly via her weak evidence) went up against the recording industry lawsuit machine is not unconstitutionally excessive.

As part of her appeal, she filed to have the damages ruled unconstitutional in their heft, given that they cost labels about 70 cents a song. The Copyright Act allows for statutory damages up to $150,000 a song, which the RIAA argued (and the DoJ agrees) don't have to be anywhere near actual damages. If you want the legalese it goes like this:

Statutory damages compensate those wronged in areas in which actual damages are hard to quantify in addition to providing deterrence to those inclined to commit a public wrong.

[G]iven the findings of copyright infringement in this case, the damages awarded under the Copyright Act's statutory damages provision did not violate the Due Process Clause; they were not 'so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense or obviously unreasonable.

The real dig in the brief in regards to future cases is that the DoJ aligns its views on uploading through P2P networks with the RIAA—uploading constitutes distribution, meaning it'll only be necessary to find that defendants made files available.

The damages—again, over $9000 a song—might be not "obviously unreasonable" but that doesn't mean they're not fucking unreasonable. [Ars, Image via Flickr]