Will File-Sharing Case Spawn a Copyright Reform Movement?



And legal scholars at the University of California at Berkeley are proposing a rewrite of the Copyright Act. In a forthcoming research paper, fellow Tara Wheatland and Berkeley scholar, Pamela Samuelson, argue that juries and judges need more congressional guidance when it comes to their deliberations on damages.

“We know of no other area of law in which judges and juries are given such open-ended discretion to award up to $150,000 in damages without any burden of proof on plaintiff to prove the fact or extent of the harms they suffered,” the duo write in Statutory Damages in Copyright Law: A Remedy in Need of Reform.

In an e-mail interview, Wheatland said that the award in the Thomas-Rasset case was “wildly disproportionate to the amount of actual damages conceivably inflicted by her conduct, and is far more than would be necessary to deter her and others like her from engaging in peer-to-peer file sharing.”