When President Barack Obama appointed two ex-RIAA lawyers to the Department of Justice, many people were curious to see how the debate over illegal file sharing would be affected. The current associate attorney general and associate deputy attorney general, Tom Perrelli and Donald Verrilli respectively, have fought and won numerous high profile cases in the past for the RIAA, including suing Google on behalf of Viacom, ending Grokster and attempting to force Charter Communications to release names of alleged illegal file sharers. Today we learned that the new Obama Justice Department has made a very telling move with respect to the illegal download debate.
Recording Industry v. The People (via The Daily Swarm) reports: “the Obama Justice Department — staffed by RIAA lawyers in its 2nd and 3rd highest positions — has filed a motion for intervention and brief in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum which attempts to support the RIAA’s statutory damages theory.”
The specifics are complex, but the gist of this move is that they are citing a case from 1919 as legal precedent to allow the RIAA to pursue “2,100 to 425,000 times the actual damages for an MP3 file.” For example, right now the RIAA is trying to blame blogger Kevin Cogill for causing 400,000 illegal downloads of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy after leaking only 9 tracks, which they claim led to a loss of $2.2 million of profits for the record company. This recent motion filed by the DOJ attempts to validate such accusations and could open the door to huge punishments against people that leak albums.