As the RIAA-shepherded file-sharing lawsuits wend their way through the courts, we have seen defendants utilizing a handful of different strategies as they fight back. A novel defense comes courtesy of Arista v. Greubel, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. David Greubel argues that even if is found liable for copyright infringement, Arista and the other record labels are barred from recovering any damages because the of the Kazaa settlement.
In his first affirmative defense to Arista’s complaint, Greubel says that the RIAA has been "fully satisfied for any liability and damages" due to his alleged conduct because of its settlement with Sharman Networks. Since the RIAA held Kazaa’s parent company liable for the infringement of Kazaa users, Greubel argues, the cartel has been fully compensated for whatever harm Greubel may have done.
Greubel also plays the excessive damages card. Following the argument made by Marie Lindor in UMG v. Lindor, Greubel says that the statutory damages of $750 per song sought by the record labels are unconstitutionally excessive. Noting that the labels would have received 70¢ in revenues from the legal download of each track listed in the original complaint, Greubel argues that actual damages should be capped at four times that figure, or $2.80 per song.
Did the RIAA shoot itself in the foot with respect to file-sharing when it settled with Sharman Networks? The plaintiffs will no doubt argue that despite Kazaa having settled the case, which compensates the record labels for damages allegedly inflicted upon them by Kazaa’s users, individual defendants should still be held liable for infringement. Still, the notion that file-sharing defendants are off the hook for damages now that Kazaa has settled is bound to be a popular one with defendants.
Greubel’s answer to the plaintiff’s complaint cites a fair amount of case law to support his arguments, but it remains to be seen whether a judge and jury will find either argument convincing. If they hold up, the RIAA will be in a position of spending thousands of dollars on legal fees to recover what amounts to pocket change. We’ll keep an eye on this and other cases as they move closer to trial.
Further reading:Recording Industry vs The People