Opinion and analysis of the day's music news.

Penalties For File Sharers To Fall?
-- The penalties given to convicted file sharers could fall dramatically in the future. The Supreme Court has showed interest in a file-sharing case The case is Maverick Recording Company v. Harper, a file-sharing case that centered on June 2004 infringements by a Texas teenager. The defendant was not allowed to use the “innocent infringer” defense in the appeal, and now her attorneys are seeking a review of that decision. The Legal Times blog, which broke the story on Tuesday, says the case “could turn into a major case for the music industry.”

There is no guarantee the Court will decide to review the case, but just the fact that the Court is interested in the labels’ response is momentous. “While the Court's request is far from a guarantee that it will take the case,” writes Ben Sheffner at Copyrights & Campaigns, “it only takes such action in a small percentage of cases, and it is an indication that the justices are at least intrigued by the issues presented and are seriously considering granting cert.”

Background on the case: Harper, 16 at the time of infringement, was sued for copyright infringement by downloading songs with Kazaa. The court found her to have infringed copyrights of 37 sound recordings and fined her $200 per work. That penalty, lower than the minimum statutory penalty per infringement of $750, is allowed when an infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe the act was in violation of the law. The appeals court reversed the district court’s finding that Harper could use the “innocent infringer” defense, which raised the damages per infringement to $750.

The Firth Circuit ruled that Harper was duly warned about the legal consequences of infringement by the warnings the labels had placed on CDs containing those songs. But Harper’s cert petition, filed in May, argues that while an infringement notice on a CD takes away the “innocent infringer” defense, Harper infringed using digital files without such a notice.

Kiwi Camara of Camara & Sibley filed the petition in May of this year. Camera is perhaps best known as the pro bono defender of file sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset in her second trial.
(Legal Times blog, Copyrights & Campaigns)

Expect More Deals From BMG
-- Expect more deals out of BMG Rights Management, the music publishing joint venture between Bertelsmann and KKR. “I hope to finalize another major deal later this year,” CEO Hartwig Masuch told Dow Jones Newswires, adding that the U.S. team alone is working on up to 70 small deals. The company acquired Evergreen on Monday. He also commented on a possible breakup of EMI, saying the company “would be happy with Western European assets” rather than all of EMI Music Publishing. (Dow Jones)

RIM Preps iPad Answer
-- RIM is readying its answer to the iPad, reports the Wall Street Journal, and could unveil it as early as next week. “The tablet, which some inside RIM are calling the BlackPad, is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of this year, these people said. It will feature a seven-inch touch screen and one or two built-in cameras, they said. It will have Bluetooth and broadband connections but will only be able to connect to cellular networks through a BlackBerry smartphone, these people said. Since the tablet won't be sold with a cellular service, it's not clear which carriers or retailers will sell the device.” (Wall Street Journal)

EFF On Infringement Act
-- The EFF on the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which was announced on Monday: “This is a censorship bill that runs roughshod over freedom of speech on the Internet. Free speech is vitally important to democracy, which is why the government is restricted from suppressing speech except in very specific, narrowly-tailored situations. But this bill is the polar opposite of narrow — not only in the broad way that it tries to define a site "dedicated to infringing activities," but also in the solution that it tries to impose — a block on a whole domain, and not just the infringing part of the site.” (EFF Deep Links blog)

Euro Parliament Backs Report On IP Enforcement
-- The European Parliament has backed a report that calls for tougher enforcement of IP rights and harmonization of copyright laws across member countries. The report, authored by a French MEP, asks the European Commission to come up with a strategy that will “remove obstacles to creating a single market in the online environment.” (EUobserver)

Rhapsody Overhauls Data Centers
-- Rhapsody is moving from several RealNetworks-owned data centers to a single facility leased by Internap. “Plumbing isn't very sexy, but Internap has some interesting technology that allows it to offer a 100 percent uptime guarantee--among other things, it monitors the big Internet backbone providers for latency and outages, and automatically reroutes traffic accordingly. Ideally, Rhapsody customers won't notice the transition, which will take place over the next few months, but Rhapsody President Jon Irwin said it would help reduce the company's costs.”(Digital Noise)