Feeds

Thomas-Rasset faces $220,000 file-sharing bill after losing appeal

Court rules $9,250 per track is constitutionally fair

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Nearly five years after being found guilty of file-sharing in the media industry's first jury trial on the issue, Minnesotan mother of four Jammie Thomas-Rasset is back where she started after the appeals court upheld the original verdict.

The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has found that the original fine of $9,250 per track was not "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable." In its ruling it points out that the maximum fine per track for willful copyright infringement established by Congress is $150,000, so she's on the low end of the damages scale.

"We conclude that the recording companies are entitled to the remedies that they seek on appeal," the court ruled. "The judgment of the district court is vacated, and the case is remanded with directions to enter a judgment for damages in the amount of $222,000, and to include an injunction that precludes Thomas-Rasset from making any of the plaintiffs’ recordings available for distribution to the public through an online media distribution system."

Back in November 2007, Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of making available 24 songs on the Kazaa P2P network, although RIAA investigators found she had over 1,700 tracks available for download during a preliminary investigation in 2005. They didn’t find any evidence that the tracks in question had been downloaded, but the jury returned a guilty verdict within minutes and set damages at $220,000.

As the appeals court ruling points out, this was in part because Thomas-Rasset clearly had knowledge that what she was doing was wrong. She authored a college case study on the legality of Napster but denied knowing anything about Kazaa or having used it. The jury heard evidence that she had swapped a new hard drive into her system before handing it to investigators.

Despite presiding over the original case, however, US District Court Judge Michael Davis then decided he'd misled the jury on his directions as to what exactly constituted making the music available. He ordered a retrial, which Thomas-Rasset lost in 2009, and that jury upped her total fine to $1.92m, or $80,000 per track.

Even the RIAA seemed a little embarrassed by this and offered to settle the case for less, assuming correctly that an award of that size was PR poison. In 2010, the courts cut the damages down to $54,000, or $2,250 per track. Capitol Records, which by this time was looking at a huge legal bill of its own, offered to settle the whole thing for a $25,000 payment to charity, but Thomas-Rasset again took the case to appeal.

She lost her third trial (earning herself the epithet of "world's dumbest file-sharer") and the damages were set at $1.5m, or $62,500 a track, but this was reduced on appeal back to a total of $54,000. Not to be deterred, she appealed again, and now has to pay back four times as much based on today's ruling upholding the original case.

El Reg would advise her to leave it at that, and to try and settle the case. The Supreme Court has already turned down one case request on the issues of file-sharing, leaving former student Joel Tenenbaum facing costs of $22,500 per track, and the constitutionality of file-sharing fines that vastly exceed the commercial value of music has a growing amount of case law behind it. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.