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Comments on the Lily Allen Mixtape Fiasco

September 27th, 2009
Lily Allen performing (left), Jammie Thomas post $1.9m verdict (right)

Lily Allen performing (left), Jammie Thomas post $1.9m verdict (right)

Lily Allen and EMI appear to infringe 38 music copyrights for commercial gain and make millions. Jammie Thomas infringes 24 music copyrights for private enjoyment and is found liable for $1.9 million in damages.

A little back-story is in order. A week ago, Mike Masnick over at Techdirt posted an article discussing 50 Cent’s take on piracy. Lily Allen copied this post verbatim and included it in her blog, where she simultaneously criticized people for copying music. Masnick called her out on the hypocrisy, and boom, an internet fiasco is born (Lily’s blog has since been taken down).

While this is interesting on the face of it, there’s more. It came out during all the discussion that Lily creates and distributes mixtapes, mixtapes which she has admitted are infringing on the copyrights of the musicians she “stole” from. How she lives with the cognitive dissonance is beyond my understanding.

Unfortunately, this isn’t all academic ivory-tower talk. Real people, in the real world, are getting screwed doing the exact same thing. Jammie Thomas, a mother of 4, was one of the few folks brave enough to go to trial over file-sharing. The court has hit her with a judgment of $1.9 million dollars, or $80,000 per track. It’s pretty clear there’s no way she’ll ever be able to pay that, and that the amount of the damages is grossly out of line with both any damage she could have caused, and any reasonable punishment what at this point is normal behavior.

One hopes that Lily will recognize that she’s in a position of privilege, and offer to help Jammie Thomas pay her ridiculous judgment. A quick look at the track listing for Lily’s two mixtapes reveals at 38 cases of possible infringement. At Jammie’s rate, that would be $3 million. However, not only was Lily’s infringement willful, but she rode it to profits! So likely she’d be in for more damages. Let’s add 25% to make up for it, bringing the per track damages to $100k per, for a total of $3.8 million.

I’m sure Jammie would take a personal cheque, just this once.

See also:

Edit: Added image, mixtapes are down, check out Dan Bull’s open musical letter to Lily.

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  1. Tim Hannigan
    September 28th, 2009 at 12:41 | #1

    Totally absurd- all the more reason for copyright reform

  2. October 6th, 2009 at 09:27 | #2

    I agree that copyright laws need to be changed, and the amount charged to Ms Thomas is ridiculous.

    But there’s a difference between online filesharing and making mixtapes. Mixtapes are typically given to a few friends, while filesharing shares files with thousands of people. Also, mixtapes usually contain just one or two tracks from any given album (possibly encouraging the listener to buy the rest of the album), while filesharers typically share entire albums.

    It seems reasonable to me that Lily Allen would consider one damaging to artists, and the other not.

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