Judge Finds Thomas-Rasset Guilty in RIAA Trial18 Jun, 2009 By: Chris Tribbey
A Minnesota mother of two was found guilty June 18 of Internet music piracy and was ordered by a jury to pay the music companies represented by the Recording Industry Association of America $1.92 million.
Jammie Thomas-Rasset first lost her anti-piracy case, the first of its kind, in October 2007, and was ordered then to pay more than $222,000 in fines. The June 18 ruling was much harsher: $80,000 for each of the 24 songs Thomas-Rasset was accused of stealing.
“We appreciate the jury’s service and that they take this issue as seriously as we do,” Cara Duckworth, an RIAA spokeswoman, told CNET. “We are pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable. Since day one, we have been willing to settle the case and remain willing to do so.”
Thomas-Rasset was first accused by the RIAA of illegally sharing two dozen songs on a file-sharing service in 2005. It was the first music file-sharing case ever to go to trial. However, the U.S. District Court judge ruled in September 2008 that a retrial was warranted after he erred in telling jurors that the RIAA companies did not have to prove that anyone actually downloaded the songs Thomas-Rasset allegedly shared.
“Based on the court’s error in instructing the jury, it grants Thomas a new trial. Because the court grants a new trial on the basis of jury instruction error, it does not reach Thomas’s claim regarding excessive damages set forth in her motion for a new trial,” the judge wrote in his September decision to grant a new trial.
The RIAA announced in December 2008 that it was done prosecuting those who download and share music, after threatening tens of thousands of individuals over the practice, and that it would instead work with Internet Service Providers to go after Web sites offering illegal fire-sharing services. However, it continued with its case against Thomas-Rasset.
“In this case, each plaintiff contends that … the defendant, Jammie Thomas-Rasset, without the permission or consent of such plaintiff, used an online media distribution system known as Kazaa to download the plaintiffs’ copyrighted recordings and/or to distribute the copyrighted recordings to the public,” Chief Judge Michael Davis wrote in his instructions to the jury. “Plaintiffs are not contending that the defendant’s ripping CDs for her own personal use constituted infringement in this case.”