Woman found guilty (again) of sharing 24 songs, owes $1.5 million

Jammie Thomas-RassetIn her third round in court, Jammie Thomas-Rasset has once again been found guilty of downloading and sharing 24 songs on Kazaa. This time, she has been ordered to cough up $1.5 million for a couple dozen tunes, which allegedly included Green Day and Aerosmith.

Earlier this year, when Thomas-Rasset was found guilty for the second time, she was ordered to pay nearly $2 million, but the judge in her case ruled that was “monstrous and shocking,” and reduced the fee to $54,000. Even still, Thomas-Rasset and her legal team appealed the verdict.

The RIAA has had its hands full attempting to punish MP3 sharers over that last decade, with very few cases actually being brought before a jury. Because of the red tape associated with going through the legal system, the organization has settled many disputes outside court by charging culprits flat fees, of generally $3,500. Only when dealing with serious offenders that have cost the organization a significant amount by file sharing, does the RIAA pursue a court case.

Which is why it’s commonly thought that Thomas-Rasset is being made an example of.  The Minnesota mom of four did not download and dispense movies, the amount of songs she’s being punished for could barely fill a CD, she’s likely taking the fall for her children who downloaded the music, and she certainly doesn’t have enough money to pay the $1.5 million she’s been ordered to. So it doesn’t look like anyone will win: Thomas-Rasset won’t be able to pay for years and the RIAA will look like a bully for driving a woman into debt just to prove a point. Even so,  The Associated Press reports that RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth said after the verdict, “Three juries have now spoken and each has sent a strong message that she needs to accept responsibility for her actions. I’d say, enough is enough.”

According to federal law, the RIAA is in fact warranted $750-$30,000 for each illegally downloaded song, but these amounts are up for debate and can rise to $150,000 per song if the jury deems it appropriate.

Thomas-Rasset was approached by the RIAA earlier this year to settle out of court for $25,000 and an admission of her guilt, which she refused. And soon she’ll head back to court once again to plead her innocence. This cycle will likely continue until one of them gets tired of the legal process and some sort of deal outside the court is struck. Thomas-Rasset insists she isn’t being stubborn though, saying, “Any amount I pay to them is money that I could use to feed my children. Any amount that I pay to them is money I could use to clothe my kids, and pay my mortgage so my kids have a place to sleep.”

Hopefully this is one of the last trials of this kind we’ll see. The idea of Kazaa is hilariously archaic, and now that people know exactly what can get them sued, downloading agents have simple options for turning off peer-to-peer sharing settings. Something Thomas-Rasset probably wishes she knew four years ago.