Howell Gets Off Easy With $40,850 Fine


Judge Neil Wake has ordered Jeffery Howell, anti-DRM paladin-turned-chump, to pay $40,500 in statutory damages to the RIAA and $250 in court fees, after Howell destroyed some incriminating P2P evidence on his computer:

In addition, he will pay 2.12 percent interest on the unpaid balance until the entire amount is paid off; in essence, Howell has just taken out a pricey new car loan, except that instead of a car, he gets a big pile of nothing to park in his driveway.

The judge also ordered him to stop infringing copyrights, "including without limitation by using the Internet or any online media distribution system to reproduce (i.e., download) any of Plaintiffs' Recordings, or to distribute (i.e., upload) any of Plaintiffs' Recordings."

And, just for good measure, Howell is instructed to "destroy all copies of those downloaded recordings transferred onto any physical medium or device in Defendant's possession, custody, or control."

Given that Howell didn't have the cash even to pay a lawyer, the RIAA may never see all of this money. Not that it matters; the PR value of winning these sorts of cases is no doubt reward enough.

The RIAA takeaway from the case will surely be a lesson about how the group will hunt down and then win cases against file-swappers. The lesson that EFF staff attorney Fred von Lohmann takes from the case, though, is a different one: get yourself a lawyer.

"He never had an adequate opportunity to explain what happened on his PC, while the RIAA had forensics experts and lawyers to tell the story," von Lohmann told us last week. "I think if Howell had an expert and lawyer to speak for him, he would have told a different story.

The RIAA may have won this time, but it can't stop the revolution.