Despite the judge’s removal of two zeros from the award to Betty Bullock against Philip Morris for at least partially being responsible for her cancer, the $28 million judgment is nonetheless significant. Though I am ardently anti-tobacco industry, $28 billion to a single smoker may have been a tad excessive.
As significant as the story is on its own, though, I can’t help but think of parallels to the record industry. They are beginning to lose suits brought by artists, suits filed in behalf of consumers, and after spanking Napster and Madster, they haven’t been able to pin down Kazaa yet.
Once the tide turns, momentum can steamroll: it wasn’t that long ago that the tobacco industry HAD NEVER LOST A CASE and were the most insufferably smug assholes on the planet. Now they’re the little boy with his fingers AND toes in the dyke, fast running out of phalanges. Precedent usually rules in law, that’s why momentum is so important. Now that precedent has been set against both tobacco and the music business, can the deluge be far behind?