Friday, April 10, 2009

Copyright Scholar Challenges RIAA/DOJ Position

Slashdot refers to an article in New York Country Lawyer about UC Berkeley Professor Pamela Samuelson, leading copyright law scholar, publishing a 'working paper' that argues directly against the stand taken by the US Department of Justice in RIAA cases on the constitutionality of the RIAA's statutory damages theories. The Department of Justice has argued that the Court should follow a 1919 United States Supreme Court case upholding the constitutionality of a statutory damages award that was 116 times the actual damages borne, under a statute that gave consumers a right of action against railway companies.

The paper discusses, in depth, a number of issues regarding statutory damages under the Copyright Act and also concludes that the State Farm/Gore due process test is applicable to statutory damage awards under the Copyright Act.

This position is consistent with that taken in the amicus curiae filed by the Free Software Foundation in earlier RIAA case defending the defendant's Due Process defense to the RIAA's claim for statutory damages and contradicts the Department of Justice briefs, arguing that the Gore due process test applies.

See the complete working paper, Statutory Damages in Copyright Law: A Remedy in Need of Reform, by Pamela Samuelson and Tara Wheatland .

The DOJ's intervention last month on behalf of the RIAA was covered in a Slashdot posting Obama DOJ Sides with RIAA.