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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

The case brought against Jammie Thomas for illegally downloading 24 songs came to a close last Thursday. Thomas was found guilty for willfully violating the copyrights of the songs she downloaded and ordered to pay the RIAA a whopping $1.9 million in damages.

The guilty verdict really comes as no surprise under our current copyright laws. The real surprise is the damages assessed. $1.9 million is about $80,000 per song. Gary Leak, a lawyer for Sony Entertainment who testified on behalf of the RIAA, said that even he was "shocked" at the size of the judgment.

So where does Jammie go from here? Her legal team has vowed to stand by her side if she decides to appeal it. They would undoubtedly argue that the judgment was excessive relative to the crime committed.

One of the unintended consequences of the verdict is that instead of acting as a deterrent for illegal downloading, the size of the judgment has prompted questions of practicality. If a mother of four can be fined almost $2 million for downloading 24 songs, how fair are our copyright laws? Perhaps this is the tipping point for copyright reform. It just might be time to meet the practicalities of a digital age.

In other music news, Live Nation and Ticketmaster are still waiting to hear from the antitrust subcommittee on whether a merger has been approved. And in a move that resembles David fighting Goliath, Washington DC independent promoter Seth Hurwitz, has filed a lawsuit against Live Nation. Mr. Hurwitz contends that Live Nation is squeezing out smaller concert promoters by forcing artists to play Live Nation venues exclusively. In my view, Mr. Hurwitz is fighting the good fight for most of the smaller promoters throughout the country.

While Live Nation is fending off a lawsuit, their partner, Ticketmaster, is throwing mud. Back in February, Bruce Springsteen created a public relations nightmare for Ticketmaster, objecting to the promoters’ tactic of holding back tickets of his East Coast shows, only to sell them at highly inflated rates on their Tickets Now auction site. Following Springsteen’s protest, Ticketmaster issued an apology and blamed their computers for the mix up. But now, in a move befitting corporate ugliness, Ticketmaster Chairman Barry Diller is pitching his own fit. This week he announced that at Springsteen’s New Jersey shows, the artist held back more than two thousand tickets, for family, friends and industry. One can only assume that Barry Diller is trying to argue that Springsteen’s ticket needs was Ticketmasters’ reason for creating a secondary inflated market. But if you think about it, the show was a home state concert – with an arguably large amount of family and friends. Holding back tickets for family and industry is not an uncommon practice and is something that has been factored into ticket prices for a long time now.

Springsteen longtime manager, Jon Landeau, quickly responded to Diller; "It's not we who earned vastly larger sums when fans paid way over the face value of the tickets. It was Ticketmaster/TicketsNow."

Frankly, I’m amazed Ticketmaster would do anything that would call any negative attention to themselves and their industry especially in lieu of such a large and controversial merger. The saying certainly applies - People in glass houses should never throw stones.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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