The Supreme Court has asked for a response to the petition for writ of certiorari to be filed in by Whitney Harper over her case against Maverick Recording Company. That is a case of the fourteen-year-old girl who was found guilty of copyright violation earlier in 2010, though she didn’t even know that file-sharing was unauthorized.
The case of Whitney Harper may finally reach the Supreme Court, and that would be a very important decision, as file-sharing cases reach the courtroom of the highest court in the country very rarely.
Whitney’s attorney received a letter where the Supreme Court asks her to file a response to the petition for a writ of cert in her case. This petition is actually a paper that is filed by a losing party, where it asks the Supreme Court to review the ruling of a lower court. The petition contains the legal questions, a statement of the facts, a list of the parties, and, of course, arguments for the Court (reason why it should grant the writ).
If this data is submitted in a formal and concise way, the chances rise that the Supreme Court will decide to finally review Whitney’s case. Harper has already won one of the trials, when two years ago the US District Judge granted the girl an “innocent infringer’s” exemption, which allowed her to pay only $200 per each case of violation ($7400 in total) instead of the $750 per case of infringement stipulated in the Copyright Act. Unfortunately, this initial ruling was revoked in 2010 by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ordered her to pay the $27,750 in damages ($750 p/infringement).
Whitney Harper has argued all this time that she was an “innocent infringer”, as she had no idea of illegal file-sharing, while peer-to-peer applications failed to tell her that files available on their networks were illegal. The matter is that the “innocent infringer” exemption can be granted only if the defendant couldn’t see a proper notification of copyright that the rights holders should put on the physical CDs. While the copyright owners did placed the warning on the original of the CDs, the girl couldn’t see them as there were no physical copies in the network, only digital.
The irony is that Whitney remains liable of copyright infringement anyway, but it matters to her how much she is ruled to pay in damages, because $27,750 would entail a huge economic burden to pay in her college years.