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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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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...)

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