Single Satisfaction Smackdown

As BitTorrent defendants are realizing the evidence is stacked against them they look for new ways to avoid liability for their theft. A recent trend for defendants seeking an ‘out’ or ‘get out of jail free’ card is the presentation of the Single Satisfaction Rule arguing that those caught before them have already paid all the damages a rights holder might recover so somehow rights holders no longer have a claim.

In its simplest terms the Single Satisfaction Rule, as defendants might want to apply it, would read the Copyright Act maximum of $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringement to incorporate all members of a swarm. The idea is that once a copyright holder has recovered $150,000 total from everyone in a swarm there is nothing left to recover, or after a number of parties have been sued and the total amount paid reaches $150,000, then the rights holder can no longer bring suit, as there is a full ‘single’ satisfaction.

Of course this misses a few issues and glosses over the reality. The Single Satisfaction Rule, even if read the way some defendants would like, would not mean there is no more liability. Even if there are no additional damages a rights holder can file for injunctive relief and be awarded costs and fees. But more significantly, to apply the single satisfaction rule all the defendants or members of a swarm would need to be jointly and severally liable for the full damages of the entire swarm. As many swarms have hundreds of thousands of participants over the life of the swarm, this would mean that anyone that ever joined the swarm would be liable for the full damages of everyone that was in the swarm at any time. Even a modest 100,000 member swarm, with damages of $10 per download, would mean actual damages would be $1,000,000. With joint and several liability, every member would be liable for the full $1,000,000 and plaintiffs would be able to collect as much of that $1,000,000 as each defendant could pay before moving on to the next defendant. If there is more than one swarm (and often there are dozens), then the damages total would restart for each additional swarm. The Single Satisfaction Rule would also mandate all members of a swarm be joined in a single case with tens of thousands of defendants forced to join wherever the case might be filed. In other words, The Single Satisfaction Rule, as properly applied to join all members of a swarm and make them each individually liable for the full damages of the swarm, would be a boon to rights holders.

Clearly this has not been well thought out by many of those that argue the defense. The outcome argued has even recently been called “absurd” by the 9th Circuit. Friedman v. Live Nation Merch., Inc., 833 F.3d 1180, 1191-92 (9th Cir. 2016). And as ruled on by a judge in the pending case of QOTD Film Investment v. Wilson, 16-cv-00371 (WDWA March 3, 2017) a BitTorrent defendant’s Single Satisfaction Rule claim has “no basis in the law.”

Relevant Documents:

16-cv-00371-RSL 82: QOTD Film Investment v. Wilson’s Counterclaims based on a failed attempt to argue the Single Satisfaction Rule

16-cv-00371-RSL 94: Order Dismissing Single Satisfaction Rule Counterclaims



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