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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Streaming TV, Music Piracy Cases

High court upheld decisions against pay-TV service ivi, and music downloader Jammie Thomas-Rasset


The Supreme Court without comment rejected attempts to overturn two big entertainment cases on Monday.

In one, TV networks and TV station owners won a court order that effectively shut down Seattle pay-TV service ivi’s effort to offer viewers TV signals over the web without paying broadcasters retransmission fees.

While ivi argued it was acting no different than a cable system in giving viewers access to programming for a $4.99 a month package, broadcasters argued that it had acted illegally in retransmitting signals without permission.

Also read: Ivi TV Loses Bid to Get Back Into Online Rebroadcasting Business

Ivi, whose appeal of the district court ruling to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals was rejected in 2012 had asked the Supreme Court to overturn the case, suggesting the appellate court had failed to properly examine the question of whether the company was acting as a cable system.

An attorney for ivi told TheWrap Monday that the high court accepts few cases but otherwise offered no comment on the decision.


National Association of Broadcasters EVP Dennis Wharton praised the court. “NAB is pleased that ivi’s petition was denied by the Supreme Court. This sends a strong message that copyright offenders will not be rewarded,” he said.

In the other case, the court let stand a decision that Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a Brainerd, Minn., single mother, owed various record companies $222,000 for illegally downloading 24 songs.

The case stemmed from attempts by the Recording Industry Association of American to fight illegal downloading of music by seeking settlements from individual who downloaded music. 

RIAA claimed Thomas-Rasset downloaded more than 1,700 songs on file-sharing service Kazaa, though it brought action only on 24 tracks.

Thomas-Rasset, claiming she didn’t download the files, fought the charges, and a jury awarded music companies, $7,500 per song for her downloads.

Her attorneys in legal briefs with the high court questioned the legal basis for the award and contended that the amount of the damages was too severe for what happened.

The companies in the suit included Capitol Records Inc.; SONY BMG Music Entertainment; Arista Records LLC; Interscope Records; Warner Bros. Records Inc., and UMG Recordings Inc.

RIAA in a statement Monday said it has repeatedly unsuccessfully tried to settle the case, first for $5,000, then after a second trial for a $25,000 donation to MusicCares charity.

“We appreciate the Court’s decision and are pleased that the legal case is finally over. We've been willing to settle this case from day one and remain willing to do so,” the statement said..

Because the high court didn’t take on either case, their impact on future court decisions is far from certain. That’s especially true in the Thomas-Rasset case, where the amount of the jury verdict in that case and actions of a judge in letting the case go to trial, hasn’t been reflected in some similar cases.


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