In a move that sent a harsh message to those who would considering challenging the RIAA's legal campaign against filesharers, a jury found Jammie Thomas-Rasset guilty of copyright infringement late Thursday and ordered her to pay an astronomical $1.92M USD in damages.
The case is the sequel to last year's original trial, the first RIAA case to go before a jury. That trial also saw a guilty verdict. The damages in the previous case was smaller, but substantial, at $222,000. The case was declared a mistrial due to the judge informing the jury that "making available" was equivalent to copyright infringement, something that recent rulings have challenged.
Ms. Thomas-Rasset, a married mother of four was back in court Monday ready for round two. This time she was represented by Kiwi Camara, the youngest person to matriculate to Harvard, also known for a racial controversy during his time at Harvard. The case turned sour quickly, though, with Mr. Camara's early defenses being thrown out by the judge.
In the end the jury found Jammie Thomas guilty of sharing 24 songs, including tracks by Green Day, Aerosmith, and Guns 'n Roses. It chose to fine her a shocking $80,000 per song, for a total of $1,920,000 USD, nearly 10 times the original verdict.
Ms. Thomas-Rasset, who works as a natural- resources coordinator for the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe, met the verdict with shock and frustration, stating, "There was nothing I could do. Now the record industry has a $2 million award against me. The only thing I can say is good luck trying to get it, because you can’t get blood out of a turnip."
The RIAA says it didn't have to come to this. States Cara Duckworth, an RIAA spokeswoman, "From day one, we’ve been willing to settle this case for somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. We appreciate the jury's service and that they take this issue as seriously as we do. We are pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable."
The settlement brings into question the fines enabled by the No Electronics Theft (NET) Act, which allows for up to $150,000 per item in cases of willful copyright infringement. Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer with the consumer group Electronic Frontier Foundation, complains, "The disproportionate size of the verdict raises constitutional questions. Was the jury punishing her for what she did, or punishing her for the music sharing habits of tens of millions of American Internet users?Was the jury punishing her for what she did, or punishing her for the music sharing habits of tens of millions of American Internet users?"
The RIAA blames filesharers like Ms. Thomas-Rasset for the drop in music sales from 1999 highs of $14.6B USD, to the current level of $8.5B USD per year. The organization looks to continue its legal campaign against filesharing Americans, buoyed by the victory. Meanwhile Ms. Thomas-Rasset's lawyer, Kiwi Camara hopes to launch a class action lawsuit against the RIAA this summer, with the help of a Harvard law professor.