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Jammie Thomas-Rasset  (Source: Wired)

Ms. Thomas-Rasset's legal representation -- Joe Sibley (left) and law partner Kiwi Camara  (Source: Camara & Sibley law firm)
Jammie Thomas' epic $1.92M in damages to the RIAA reduced by sympathetic judge

Back in October 2007 it was reported that Jammie Thomas, a Minnesota woman, was being sued by the RIAA for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa. Jammie was the first defendant not to settle out-of-court with the RIAA, making her case unique, and for the RIAA, particularly important. 

 In its first jury trial, the RIAA was awarded $222,000 (USD), which amounts to a fine of $9,250 for song. The case came back into court in 2008 when U.S. District Court Chief Justice Michael Davis declared a mistrial, citing misinstruction to the jury by RIAA lawyers. During her first trial, Jury Instruction 15 told jurors to consider the act of having a song in a users share folder equivalent to the act of copyright infringement. This applied directly to Thomas' case, because she was not found to have committed actual copyright infringement.

Unfortunately for Thomas (now Thomas-Rasset), the second trial resulted in a fine increase, which totaled $1.92M. Thomas was shocked upon hearing the verdict, stating that, "There was nothing I could do,” and,”  good luck trying to get it, because you can’t get blood out of a turnip."

The RIAA, in response, explained that it didn’t have to go that far.  RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth elaborated stating that, "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."

Things are looking up for Thomas, however -- Following an appeal, her fines have been reduced significantly to $54,000. Despite the dramatic reduction Thomas and her legal team are still looking for ways to further decrease the fine. Thomas explains that, “Whether it's $2m or $54,000, I'm a mom with four kids and one income and we're not exactly rolling in that kind of dough right now," 

Thomas' judge seemed to understand her disbelief, stating that the $1.92M fine was "monstrous," however it doesn't appear that this is a trend that will continue in the future. Not only did the U.S. Department of Justice approve of the $1.92M decision,  but just last week it was reported that the Obama Administration supported a $650K fine for file sharing, and believes that there is a significant need to "deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights in an environment where many violators believe they will go unnoticed." Either way, it will be interesting to see if this will be the end of Thomas' story.

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A Collection?
By UncleRufus on 1/25/2010 4:04:22 PM , Rating: 3
Is anyone taking a collection for this poor woman online somewhere? Just heart-breaking.

RE: A Collection?
By jonmcc33 on 1/25/2010 4:15:13 PM , Rating: 5
Nope, but I'm still collecting MP3s. Only a fool would have used Kazaa.

In reality the RIAA should bill her $0.99 for each song and move on.

RE: A Collection?
By CHAOQIANG on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
RE: A Collection?
By shin0bi272 on 1/25/2010 11:44:09 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly! 99cents per song plus court costs and she gets to keep the songs.

Plus when a band charges 40 bucks for a t-shirt and between 10 and 5000 dollars to go see them live (see barbra striesand for the 5k tickets) you know they arent too worried about living on alpo dog food if their record sales drop 50% but people are still showing up to see them live.

RE: A Collection?
By RyuDeshi on 1/26/2010 12:08:18 AM , Rating: 2
You know that it isn't about her downloading the songs, it is because she shared them, that means hundreds of thousands of people got the file for free partly because of her (partly because kazaa is a p2p program where you pick up bits and pieces of a file from multiple users).

If it was just because she downloaded them, then I would agree.. they should just charge the price per song and a little extra as a "fine" but not thousands of dollars, that is just ridiculous.

RE: A Collection?
By bug77 on 1/26/2010 5:24:19 AM , Rating: 5
hundreds of thousands of people got the file for free partly because of her

And I believe any (sane) justice system would require proof of that.

RE: A Collection?
By Pjotr on 1/26/2010 7:03:24 AM , Rating: 4
it is because she shared them, that means hundreds of thousands of people got the file for free

"...the act of having a song in a users share folder equivalent to the act of copyright infringement. This applied directly to Thomas' case, because she was not found to have committed actual copyright infringement."

No evidence that a single user ever downloaded a copy from her...

RE: A Collection?
By jonmcc33 on 1/26/2010 10:39:18 AM , Rating: 1
So with that logic is it illegal for someone under 21 to consume alcohol or just buy it?

The fact is, they sued her for making these files available and not because anyone actually downloaded from her. Honestly though, just 24 songs?

They should see my collection...not obtained through Kazaa but merely using Google. It's absurd. The RIAA should attack Google at this point. Worst pirating website on the planet.

The RIAA is stupid, full of rich people with very little ability to use their brains. They spend millions on the pursuit of pathetic people that use Kazaa and shared a dozen files because they didn't have a clue to remove them after they downloaded them.

In the mean time, Google is giving away entire albums and discographies through a simple to use search engine. The RIAA has lost billions of dollars because of Google.

RE: A Collection?
By AstroCreep on 1/25/2010 4:20:41 PM , Rating: 4
I haven't found one specifically for her, but if she's receiving any council from the EFF you can always make a donation to them.

RE: A Collection?
By corduroygt on 1/25/2010 4:23:34 PM , Rating: 4
No need for any of that, she should offer them $3k and threaten with Bankruptcy if they don't accept. Of course get a car loan/mortgage before you do this, then just live off your check card.

RE: A Collection?
By jonmcc33 on 1/26/2010 10:41:34 AM , Rating: 2
...then just live off your check card.

If she couldn't even afford to buy a few CD singles and downloaded them instead do you think she can afford to live off of her check card?

RE: A Collection?
By corduroygt on 1/26/2010 11:24:37 AM , Rating: 2
I guess everyone who owns PSP's, xbox 360's, gaming PC's and pirates games, or owns Iphones/Itouches and pirates apps is dirt poor then?
Many people will choose to not pay for something if they can get away with it, it's human nature.

RE: A Collection?
By jonmcc33 on 1/27/2010 1:05:28 PM , Rating: 2
Many people will choose to not pay for something if they can get away with it, it's human nature.

I'd like to see you go to a car lot and drive away with a new car without paying or signing your name.

You completely missed my point though. My point is that declaring bankruptcy and just resorting to your check card is not a solution. You can't borrow thousands of dollars for a new heater for your house in the middle of winter from a check card. You aren't going to buy a new car with a check card.

There are things in life that you will need, not to mention emergency situations, that cannot be helped if you declare bankruptcy and try to live off of a paycheck when you are already living month to month. I guess those types are the ones that go to their family (brothers, sisters, parents) for money instead.

RE: A Collection?
By callmeroy on 1/26/2010 12:53:00 PM , Rating: 2
The fact that you were rated a "5" for that incredibly BAD financial idea/scheme, even after the hellish economy we've had for clicking on 2 years now (I'm talking since its been really bad) double digit unemployment rates, etc. and people still indicate a kind of "cheer" by rating that a '5' -- that's simply amazing....either that or there is a bunch of teenagers or younger that actually view this site and comment.

...after all when you aren't paying the bills and don't have to work for what you have -- who the hell cares how the economy is affected.

RE: A Collection?
By The Raven on 1/26/2010 2:22:31 PM , Rating: 2
I do work bub, and there are times when civil disobedience is called for. It sounds to me that the protection that the eighth amendment affords is not being applied here. That is not right and should not be tolerated in my opinion, whether I loose my job or not. How selfish are you?

As a nation we had a revolution over crap like this. We had a tea party and sat at the front of the bus. Hell, we even shot some redcoats. Talk about dessimating an economy! I don't care what happens to the economy, what is wrong is wrong. If that includes her initial crime: so be it. But that doesn't change the fact that the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

This is just the RIAA bullying this poor woman and trying to make an example out of her. Well in my book she is a 'martyr' who's story has stoked the fire of rebellion in me. I want to pirate like crazy. Too bad the 'recording industry' just puts produces a bunch of crap that I don't listen to. Ironic isn't it. Maybe I can just set up a server in Ghana.

But good for her if she wants to fight fire with fire and file for bankruptcy. I will gladly give my tax dollars to her if it paints the RIAA/Gov't as the fools they are.

RE: A Collection?
By jonmcc33 on 1/27/2010 1:09:24 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I agree with you but in this situation in order to get away from having to pay the RIAA a dime for 24 songs it's the only alternative...unless she waits it out and hopes it goes to court and some judge lowers the penalty even more.

The part about getting a loan/mortgage beforehand I do not agree with at all. That will do nothing but further degrade our economic state.

sympathy has nothing to do with it
By invidious on 1/25/2010 5:51:07 PM , Rating: 2
Let me preface that I agree that what she was accused of is a crime and that as being found guilty should be punished.

But no one can do $2 million worth of damage just by downloading songs. I am not even sure you could do this much by sharing your media collection continuously for many years by yourself. Only by running distribution to mass market the pirated media could I see this fine being realistic.

For example I could see TPB being sued for $2 million. Of course they aren't in the US so that wont happen.

I just don't see how the punishment for stealing a digital copy should exceed that of stealing a phsyical product has a direct zero sum effect on those who it was stolen from. This reduced value is much more realistic and understandable.

The new verdict is higher than the value of the product, as it should be in order to add punishment to the reimbursement. But the original verdict was off by two orders of magnitude and the judge should be ashamed of himself for allowing such a farse to take place in his court.

RE: sympathy has nothing to do with it
By Uncle on 1/25/2010 8:16:48 PM , Rating: 3
What ever happened to "The punishment should fit the crime". That's what I grew up with.

RE: sympathy has nothing to do with it
By croc on 1/26/2010 12:11:29 AM , Rating: 3
"Let me preface that I agree that what she was accused of is a crime and that as being found guilty should be punished."

Pardon, maybe the laws are very different in the US of A (the greatest country in the world) to that of the laws here in AUS. But if this lady was 'accused of a crime,' would she not be tried in a criminal court and be sentenced via a criminal verdict?

My understanding of this case is that she was SUED in a CIVIL court action, and then given a CIVIL penalty by the jury. (Please note that this comment is so full of sarcasm that reading it could be bad for your health...)

Fix Please
By Sazabi19 on 1/25/2010 3:53:00 PM , Rating: 2
"Things are looking up for Thomas, however -- Following an appeal, her fines have been reduced significantly to $54,00. " fix to $54,000. That is all i wanted to say:) this is crazy though...

RE: Fix Please
By Micronite on 1/25/2010 4:12:33 PM , Rating: 5
You know, there are so many mistakes like this on DT that I don't bother pointing them out anymore. In fact, I got to the point that I decided not to care about it (unless it is somewhat intentional). My apathy has actually made reading DT so much more pleasant.
Not that they shouldn't proof-read; they have an audience of thousands. If my reputation as a journalist (is that what they call them on DT) depended on my writings, I would probably want to put my best foot forward.
Just my 2 cents.

By amanojaku on 1/25/2010 4:40:57 PM , Rating: 4
From day one, we’ve been willing to settle this case for somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.
This is the first I'm hearing about this. If they only wanted $5,000 why didn't they go to small claims court? O_o

By MonkeyPaw on 1/25/2010 5:08:18 PM , Rating: 3
Because they are out to make absurd examples of people in an effort to scare everyone else away from illegal downloads. They are hoping people will fight it so that they can have news stories of kids, single moms, and grandmas getting sued for $10,000 per illegally acquired song. It scared me so much that they drove me away as a paying customer!

By dragonbif on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
By Veerappan on 1/26/2010 4:04:20 PM , Rating: 1
Also why would it scare you so much that you would stop being a paying customer? If it really scared you so much then you would be sure to buy all your music

What (s)he's probably saying is that he/she has stopped buying music from the RIAA and is either just buying from independent labels, listening to radio stations for free, or possibly just streaming via internet radio. Yes, they could just be pirating all their music now, but buying/downloading CDs produced by the RIAA isn't the only way to get your music fix.

By nafhan on 1/25/2010 4:41:21 PM , Rating: 5
The state department is telling China not to restrict what people do online, but the justice department allows large corporations to sue single mothers into bankruptcy over online copyright infringement as a "scare" tactic. It's certainly not apples to apples, but something about that bothers me.

RE: Hypocrisy
By fatedtodie on 1/26/10, Rating: -1
RE: Hypocrisy
By bennyg on 1/26/2010 10:19:13 AM , Rating: 3
First she's crying poor so can't pay up. I'd much rather 4 kids got food and shelter than the RIAA got their sacrificial goat.

Second she didn't personally copy the song for "hundreds of thousands" and charge them for it like a pro pirate does for DVDs. Why the RIAA has been able to get this line of argument accepted is beyond my comprehension. Those who downloaded it went looking for it, the blame's not totally hers.

Thirdly it is manifestly unfair to heap a stupidly large verdict on her just because there are a zillion others doing the same thing and she's one who's been dumb/unlucky enough to get caught.

Fourthly your idealism about changing laws is admirable but your naivety is execrable.

Fifthly I'm not alone when I believe even 99c is too much for most "music" these days, and when there is such low regard for a product it's no wonder so many consumers refuse to pay for it.

Worse off?
By SavagePotato on 1/25/2010 4:57:09 PM , Rating: 4
I would have to think she is worse off now, there was no way she could ever pay the original award so she could have just shrugged her shoulders and said can't pay it based on how ridiculous it is.

She actually could afford to pay the new fine and likely live in poverty because of it.

RE: Worse off?
By surt on 1/25/2010 7:32:49 PM , Rating: 2
The way it really works is they push you into bankruptcy, taking all available assets other than your primary home. So it doesn't matter whether it's 54k or 2M ... they both presumably mean she loses everything to pay the judgement.

Talk about pre-marital baggage
By OUits on 1/25/2010 5:23:20 PM , Rating: 4
Unfortunately for Thomas (now Thomas-Rasset)

More like, unfortunately for Mr. Rasset... suprize!

RE: Talk about pre-marital baggage
By zaki on 1/25/2010 5:29:02 PM , Rating: 2
hahaha...gotcha bit*h!

By eddieroolz on 1/26/2010 1:35:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see the RIAA try to sue my ass. I feel like downloading a lot of crappy pop songs just to piss the RIAA off.

Of course, you can't touch me. Canada still allows file-sharing.

RE: Can
By jonmcc33 on 1/27/2010 3:19:43 PM , Rating: 2
You don't get in trouble for downloading...even though that is technically stealing copyrighted material.

You get in trouble for SHARING. That is where you break copyright infringement laws and the RIAA can seek money for apparent monetary damage done by such an act.

Indeed P2P has damaged the RIAA. 50% sales drop in 10 years from it's peak...even including new digital music sales. That's billions of dollars. But remember that it's just the RIAA that is suffering and not the music artist. The music artist might get awards such as Gold and Platinum certified albums based upon sales. But they get their money ahead of time and also for merchandise sponsoring and concert sales.

So pirating doesn't hurt the music artist. It hurts the greedy middle man who wants money for doing nothing but sitting back with their feet kicked up on a $10,000 desk.

Oh my god!!! My god...
By AstroGuardian on 1/26/2010 5:24:11 AM , Rating: 1
I read from someone in the upper posts US of A (the greatest country in the world) or so...

What is so great about it? Examples of this kind??
If someone owns a song he should be free to do whatever pleases. What about Amazon erasing books from users' Kindles? Why didn't the americans sue and destroy Amazon? But of course large corps can sue moms for sharing some crappy songs written by long dead so called authors. I have an issue with this. This is hilarious. America is hilarious. I have never purchased a song in my life, neither a DVD and yet i have few terabytes of content sharing with the whole world every single day. i can have books, games, software all being freely available on the net. So does that make me a criminal for downloading and not the entities that offer it?

What the hell??? Can anybody discuss about this?
I live in Europe by the way

RE: Oh my god!!! My god...
By corduroygt on 1/26/2010 5:35:44 PM , Rating: 2
You're mistaking a civil suit for a criminal suit.
Lose civil suit: You owe money to the plaintiff and that's it. You won't be arrested or taken to jail if you can't pay it.
Lose Criminal suit: You're either going directly to jail, or have to pay the fines, and if not, Police will arrest you and take you to jail.

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