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First RIAA file-sharing trial begins

Accused mom gets jury of her peer-to-peers

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30-year-old single mother of two Jammie Thomas appeared in court today in Minnesota to answer allegations that she illegally shared 1,702 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network.

Thomas is the first of approximately 26,000 US citizens accused by the Recording Industry of America of illegal file-sharing to reach a civil judge and jury.

Most have settled with the RIAA, rather than face its litigious might. Thomas said she had rejected such offers because she refused to be bullied.

The RIAA is seeking over $1.2m in compensation. The suit will focus on only 26 songs for damages, as set by federal law, of $750 to $30,000 for each alleged copyright violation.

Thomas' council, Brian Toder, says the record companies haven't proven that Thomas shared the songs. The RIAA says the lawsuit will "communicate that there are consequences for breaking the law and encourage fans to turn to legal online services."

The RIAA claims on February 21, 2005, investigators at SafeNet found the 1,702 songs being shared under Thomas' online handle, "tereastarr" and her IP address. The RIAA said Thomas has used the screen name online for "many years," leading them to believe it was her.

There are no claims that either child — ages 11 and 13 — were involved in the music sharing, although the RIAA has historically gone after the parent first.

Shortly after receiving settlement letters from the labels, Thomas had the hard drive in her PC replaced at Best Buy. She says the switch was made to repair the drive, while the RIAA accuses Thomas of attempting to conceal evidence.

The RIAA will perhaps be hard-pressed now to produce evidence that Thomas was in fact the one sharing the music. On top of unavailable evidence, on Monday, her attorney succeeded in having 784 documents thrown out of court because the RIAA missed a deadline.

Jury selection and opening arguments began this morning in Duluth federal court. US District Judge Michael Davis presided over the trial. It is expected to conclude on Thursday. ®

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