Originally published: November 29, 2010
Last updated: December 2, 2010 - 11:54pm
The Supreme Court has decided not to hear the appeal of Whitney Harper, leaving her facing a $27,750 bill for having downloaded 37 tracks from Kazaa when she was 16.
In 2008, a trial judge ruled in San Antonio, Texas that Harper was a so-called "innocent infringer" and ordered her to pay $200 per track -- the minimum for innocent infringers. The statutory floor for those who aren't innocent infringers is $750. That ruling was reversed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that Harper wasn't an innocent infringer because the copyright statute says that only people without access to published phonorecords -- in this case compact discs -- can be considered "innocent." That court also deemed Harper's age and lack of legal knowledge irrelevant to her liability. Harper then asked the Supreme Court to take up the case, arguing that the copyright statute's wording about notices on phonorecords should not apply in her case because she didn't infringe by copying a CD. The Supreme Court didn't give a reason for turning down Harper's appeal, but the order issued today shows that the decision wasn't unanimous. Judge Samuel Alito Jr. wrote a three-page dissent explaining why he wanted the court to consider Harper's appeal. He said there was "a strong argument" why the part of the statute dealing with notices on records doesn't apply in cases involving digital downloads, noting that the provision dates to 1988, "well before digital music files became available on the Internet."
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