Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. Jammie Thomas today finds herself owing the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) almost $2 million in awarded damages after losing the retrial she was granted for her alleged copyright infringements. She owed $222,000 after the first trial, and now the figures involved have risen sharply.
Jammie Thomas-Rasset is the only person in the U.S. to have ever been taken to court and put through a trial for illegally downloading music. The rest of the 30,000 or so people who the RIAA has accused of the crime have accepted their fate and paid the out of court settlement fees, which average around $3,500 each.
But Jammie Thomas-Rasset fought the allegations because she maintains she didn’t do anything wrong. Originally accused in 2007 of offering 1,700 songs over the Kazaa file-sharing network, the music industry decided to only claim for the swapping of 24 tracks. Yet Thomas still claims she didn’t obtain or share these tracks illegally.
The 32-year-old Minnesota resident lost the case when it first came to court in 2007, with the jury awarding the RIAA and its record company members a total of $222,000. The blogosphere went into meltdown at the news because Thomas represents the person who refused to roll over and play dead.
That original decision was then thrown out by U.S. District Judge Michael David after he admitted he had erred in the way he directed the jury. Two years later and we have a retrial, in which most people expected Thomas to either be let off entirely or, at the most, be hit with the minimum monetary sentence of $750 per song ($18,000 in total).
But that wasn’t to be. Instead, according to Ars Technica, the jury found Thomas guilty of willfully infringing the copyrights involved, and ordered her to pay $80,000 per song ($1.92 million in total). Believe it or not, it could have been even worse, with the maximum for each song set at $150,000.
Where did the jury get the figure of $80,000 per song from – did they pluck it out of thin air? Whether or not Thomas-Rasset is guilty or not of illegally distributing these songs becomes a moot point when the sum of money awarded for her “crime” is so ridiculous. A victory for the RIAA perhaps but not for common sense.