Obama Administration Takes Side in P2P Suit

Mar 23, 2009 3:30 PM PST
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department under the Obama administration has sided with the major record labels in a federal lawsuit where an accused peer-to-peer pirate has argued that current law providing for $150,000 in damages per copyright violation is too "punitive."

The current administration’s decision to side against piracy is a good sign for the adult entertainment industry, which has suffered under a proliferation of stolen content traded online.

Tube sites, along with torrent sites and other peer-to-peer file sharing methods, are ripping members areas and illegally copying scenes from DVDs for surfers to view for free. The ability to download “a la carte” as much adult content as your hard drive can hold ostensibly trains a whole generation of potential adult consumers to expect porn for free, much like Napster did for music.

A legal brief filed Sunday in a case that the Recording Industry Association of America is pursuing in Massachusetts says “the harms caused by copyright infringement” on the Internet include limiting “a copyright owner's ability to distribute legal copies of copyrighted works. The public in turn suffers from lost jobs and wages, lost tax revenue, and higher prices for honest purchasers of copyrighted works.”

The Obama administration's choice to intervene in the Massachusetts suit comes after the Bush administration joined the RIAA’s suit against Jammie Thomas, who was accused of piracy.

In the Massachusetts case, Harvard law professor Charles Neeson and his students are arguing in the case of Joel Tenenbaum, who was accused of sharing music on file-sharing networks.

Tenenbaum claims that current copyright law provides for damages so excessive that they violate due process rights, and are therefore unconstitutional.

“The remedy of statutory damages for copyright infringement has been a cornerstone of our federal copyright law since 1790, and Congress acted reasonably in crafting the current incarnation of the statutory damages provision,” Justice Department attorneys wrote in its brief defending current copyright laws.

“Congress sought to account for both the difficulty of quantifying damages in the context of copyright infringement and the need to deter millions of users of new technology from infringing copyrighted works in an environment where many violators believe that their activities will go unnoticed.”

Several top lawyers in the Obama Justice Department were formerly employed in file-sharing lawsuits brought by the RIAA.

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