It turns out that Jammie Thomas could have been worse off

The tech news industry has been buzzing with news of the $222,000 verdict in the precedent setting civil case Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas, the first instance of an RIAA complaint going to a trial by jury.

Now a juror from the case has opened up and discussed their feelings about the case and what went on inside the courtroom.

While some may feel the
$9,250 per song fine levied against Thomas was extreme and unreasonable, she could have been far worse off, if a couple of the jurors had their way.

In an interview with THREAT LEVEL on Tuesday,
Michael Hegg, one of the jurors from the case, reported that two jurors had tried to sway the other jurors to adopt the maximum fine per violation, $150,000 per piece of copyrighted material. 

As Thomas was found guilty of 24 such violations, this would have resulted in a $3.6 million fine.

Another juror, according to Hegg, was insistent on making the fine as low as possible.  The minimum amount per violation, by law is $750.  This would have led to a far lesser fine of $18,000, still a significant sum, but over $200,000 less than the $222,000 jury decision.

Hegg, a 38-year-old steelworker from Duluth, Minnesota who had just returned home from a 14 hour shift when the interview took place, was unsympathetic at Thomas's plight. 

He elaborated, "She's a liar.  She should have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars.  Spoofing? We're thinking, 'Oh my God, you got to be kidding.'  [The verdict was] a compromise, yes, we wanted to send a message that you don't do this, that you have been warned."

Hegg felt that the fact that Thomas turned a different hard drive over to investigators than the original was particularly damning.  He repeated his feelings that she was being deceptive. "She lied.  There was no defense. Her defense sucked," he elaborated.

Hegg is a married father of two and says his wife is an "Internet guru," but admits to not knowing much about technology issues.

Hegg said his opinion and that of the jury was swayed by a number of pieces of evidence presented by the RIAA.  One exhibit, viewed multiple times showed that there were 2 million users on Kazaa, the network Thomas was accused of using, on the night RIAA investigators found Thomas's alleged folder.  Also, Thomas's use of the name "Terreastarr" on other online accounts, the same as the name on the Kazaa account, helped convince them.  Then there was the fact that the RIAA's technical experts matched the IP and MAC address to her computer.  Expert testimony had revealed that Thomas had not used a wireless router, casting further doubt on her claims that she was hacked.

Hegg seemed almost enraged at Thomas as he concluded the interview by saying, "I think she thought a jury from Duluth would be naïve. We're not that stupid up here.  I don't know what the f**k she was thinking, to tell you the truth."

Hegg's statements echo the Bush administration's statement earlier this week, that the punishment fit the crime and serves as a good warning to potential violators. 

The RIAA has a strong ally in the current U.S. administration, which has made major efforts to police copyright infringement and raise the fines for violators, including championing and signing into law the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005.  This law mandated that possession of even a single copy of a film unreleased on dvd could subject the owner to a stay in prison.  The law included no provisions for currently unreleased or untranslated foreign films, but so far the motion picture industry has been slightly less zealous in prosecuting infringers than the RIAA.  Recent reports put the RIAA settlements at nearly 36,000 individual settlements, by certain estimates.

Still there are many around the country who feel that she got off too lightly or was fined too heavily or unjustly.  Even the jury seems to have mirrored this same split.  One wanted to just fine her the minimum amount, others wanted to fine her the maximum amount $3.6 million dollars. 

The end result is still the same though: Thomas is going to have to pay, unless her appeal somehow succeeds.  Meanwhile the RIAA can rest content with their victory as they ponder their next plan of attack in their colorful battle against copyright infringement.

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