The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Another file-sharer faces costly day of reckoning

Atlantic v Howell, RIAA, file-sharing, piracy, Kazaa, lawsuit A federal judge has ordered a Kazaa user in Arizona, Jeffrey Howell, to pay the major record companies $40,850 for infringing copyrights on 54 songs. It's not a sum of Jammie Thomas proportions, but it's still gotta hurt.

Unlike Thomas, Howell never got the chance to present his case to a jury. Instead, U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake declared victory for the labels after experts for RIAA reported that Howell had erased his hard drive. Howell, who admitted having Kazaa on his PC (to download porn, he said), blamed the software for autonomously placing songs into his shared folder without his knowledge. He told the judge that he'd wiped his drive to stop Kazaa before it could infringe again, but Wake concluded that Howell's actions weren't quite so innocent.

The award award represents the smallest amount provided by statute ($750 per song, plus $350 for the cost of filing suit), compared to the $9,250 per track that a Minnesota jury assessed Thomas. Both amounts pale next to the $30,000 that U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ordered TorrentSpy to pay in another case that ended after the defendant was found to have destroyed crucial evidence.

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division.

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