US woman to pay 1.92 mln dlrs in music piracy case

Jun 19, 2009
File picture shows demonstrators in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC during a hearing on the legality of file-sharing networks. A US jury Thursday ordered a 32-year-old woman to pay 1.92 million dollars in damages for illegally downloading 24 songs in a high-profile digital piracy case

A US jury has ordered a 32-year-old woman to pay nearly two million dollars in damages for illegally downloading 24 songs over the Internet in a high-profile digital piracy case.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a single mother of four from the Minnesota town of Brainerd, was found liable of violating music copyrights for using the Kazaa peer-to-peer file-sharing network to download the songs.

The jury took just under five hours on Thursday to reach its verdict.

It ordered Thomas-Rasset to pay 1.92 million dollars -- or 80,000 dollars per song -- to six record companies: Capitol Records, Music, Arista Records, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records and UMG Recordings.

In his closing arguments on Thursday, attorney Timothy Reynolds said Thomas-Rasset had made copyrighted music available to "millions on the Internet" through Kazaa.

"She infringed my clients' copyrights and then she tried to cover it up," Reynolds said.

Thomas-Rasset said that her former husband or her children may have downloaded the music but her arguments apparently did not sway the jury.

Thomas-Rasset had been convicted previously, in October 2007, and ordered to pay 220,000 dollars in damages but the judge who presided over that trial threw out the verdict calling it "wholly disproportionate" and "oppressive."

The case was filed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which has brought suit against thousands of people for illegally downloading and sharing music, with most agreeing to settlements of between 3,000 and 5,000 dollars.

Thomas-Rasset was the first among those being sued to refuse a settlement, however, and instead took the case to court. Her case is the only one among the thousands filed to have actually gone to trial.

In December, the RIAA said it will stop suing people who download music illegally and focus instead on getting Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to take action.

The move away from litigation represented a major shift in strategy for the music industry group, which had filed lawsuits against some 35,000 people for online piracy since 2003.

More than six months later, however, no ISPs have publicly signed on to the program.

(c) 2009 AFP

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User comments : 32

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Walid
5 / 5 (15) Jun 19, 2009
Sometimes the legal system is the most pitiful thing ever. The recording industry can make more money from suing people than from selling music. This is not a case of damages reimbursement but a legally supported bullying mechanism.
Skepticus
1.7 / 5 (7) Jun 19, 2009
I hope she is having a good paying job. Otherwise, she probably have to deduct 50 bucks a week for the rest of her life...
nick7201969
2.1 / 5 (7) Jun 19, 2009
Almost two million bucks she has to pay??



No problem, I heard that she'll have that money very soon. She found a new "Dollar sharing program" on the internet and she is illegally downloading the money as we speak.


dsl5000
4.1 / 5 (7) Jun 19, 2009
80k per song...wtf...RIAA just bought a lady and her 4 kids.



btw why is one song attributed to 6 record companies? Where is the artist? If anything all the proceeds should go to the artist.
Ashy
3 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2009
Interesting article for RIAA:

http://www.thereg...society/
dsl5000
4.6 / 5 (10) Jun 19, 2009
It's because the companies want to give themselves a raise, what better revenue then suing people for 3k-9k in this case 80K per song. Of course it's pure profit when successful, no physical production cost.

capitalism at its best
Arkaleus
2.8 / 5 (11) Jun 19, 2009
The total amount of the fine should have not exceeded the actual real cost of the music she downloaded. I think that would have been about $.99 per song, which would have made her fine about $24.

This outrageous, oppressive and ridiculous fine has made me absolutely HATE the RIAA and all recording companies who would destroy the financial lives of a woman and her children. The RIAA needs to get back to reality and realize that technology has made their monopoly on distribution obsolete, and we're not going to destroy the internet to insure their continued profits.

After this poor lady declares bankruptcy, I will start the timer for the bankruptcy of the record companies involved in this suit. Tick. Tock.
superhuman
5 / 5 (9) Jun 19, 2009
This absurd verdict makes it obvious that US justice system is no longer about justice, it is about politics and big business.
Bob_B
1 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2009
I know little nails can puncture those silly cardboard covers they put CD's in. I know that scratches on those cd's make them useless.

I won't be sniffing, but a scratch here and there could be in order.
freethinking
1.9 / 5 (9) Jun 19, 2009
Unfortunately the Christian music industry is also fond on Copywriting music. I feel all music should be free. However one ray of light at least in the Christian music arena is the byfor project started by Michael Card (I have no connections to Michael Card other than liking his work very much). He is working on getting music and other art licenced uner Creative commons so that others can use and expand on the work. Churches or other act as patronages, and sponser the artist. Below is the link to the site, and the second link is for free music.

http://www.byfor.org/
http://www.byfor.org/project_sweet_sacrifice.html

What has happened to the music/art industry is that big money is getting in the way of art. It would be nice, especially for the Christian artistic community, to go to this model.
COCO
3 / 5 (8) Jun 19, 2009
a president goes to an illegal war - milions die - and he sits on his retarded behiind swilling bourbon and this mindless chick gets hammered for cannot even approach a mallum in se standard.
frogz
5 / 5 (6) Jun 19, 2009
yet another example of big business running the government. Banks > companies > president. If you understand that equation, then you remember it. Too many people give the lip service ... until its time to vote. Hate this verdict? hate yourselves and the generations before you for not changing things sooner.
Baseline
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 19, 2009
This is ridiculous, the recording industry has been giving away music for free for decades over the radio. Long before Ipods, PC's and the internet we used reeel to reel tape recorders to copy music. When cassette tape machines became available we used them then came cable radio and we recorded whole albums for free.

The Motion Picture Association warned that the VCR would spell doom for their industry as people were "stealing" movies. It would seem that they were wrong as is the RIAA.

There is no crime here unless she attempted to make money from her actions which I have heard no allegation of. There is nothing new here, music has been given away by the industry for decades and people have been copying it for free and they are all still in business. The RIAA needs to look closely at the MPAA and how they have adapted to changes in technology and their market.

Truth is it is not about people copying the music its about the RIAA failing to adapt to the changing technology and marketplace. They are more concerned about being cut out of the loop entirely because now musicians can take their work directly to the people and cut them out entirely.
Fazer
2 / 5 (5) Jun 19, 2009
I agree that it is a rediculous amount of money, but I am also laughing at her: That's what she gets for distributing songs online. She refused to pay the small fine, got a bigger one, and now a massive one.

I might add that 12 of her peers slapped that fine on her. 12 people, chosen from a pool of random, average citizens agreed that she was guilty and chose the amount to fine her. I've been on two juries, one for murder and one for attempted murder, and both ended up as hung juries: no verdict. It is not easy to get 12 people to agree, but they did in this case. She asked for a jury of her peers, and they all found her guilty.

Also, if you read the article, the industry is changing tactics, or at least trying to do so. Hopefully this will be the last big trial of this sort.

I agree that things need to change, but in the end, even independent artists need to support themselves, so what is the new alternative? How can they make a living if people are not willing to pay for entertainment? Everyone wants free stuff. I wish artists would just stop making music altogether, leave us all in an empty void, an entertainment version of Atlas Shrugged. But that isn't going to happen, so here we are.

What's next?
ForFreeMinds
3.3 / 5 (7) Jun 20, 2009
Unfortunately, the entertainment industry has gotten in bed with politicians and have extended the time for which copyrights and patents remain in force. It used to be that these would expire in 25 years or so (I'm not sure the actual time) but now it's more like 75 years.
Fazer
1.7 / 5 (3) Jun 20, 2009
Yeah, that is a bit long, but tell me, what is the "proper" duration for copyrights? Many people, though certainly not all, agree that it is okay to award some copyright protection. How do we come up with an equitable amount of time?

And once we do set a time, can we all agree to abide by it? Can we agree that it is wrong to freely distribute material that is legally copyrighted for a "reasonable" duration?
VOR
3 / 5 (4) Jun 20, 2009
How the jury was 'convinced' that the settlement was not about 1000x too high is beyond me. Something fishy there. Completely rediculous. Previous judge found 220k to be way too high, but now 2 mil is ok? What a joke and an embarassment to the legal system. I wonder if it will stick this time.
Fazer
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 20, 2009
I ask a simple question as to whether we could agree upon and abide by new copyright rules, and instead of joining the discussion, Frajo simply votes me a 1 for my comment.

I must conclude that Frajo has no morals whatsoever and thinks that it is perfectly okay to steal anything he/she wants, anytime, anywhere. Is that right Frajo?
frajo
3.4 / 5 (5) Jun 20, 2009
I must conclude that Frajo has no morals whatsoever and thinks that it is perfectly okay to steal anything he/she wants, anytime, anywhere. Is that right Frajo?


No. But your reasoning is interesting.

And in order to join the discussion I'd like to ask why we should use the verb "steal"
a) to describe an action where a material object is taken away from its owner AND
b) to describe an action where an immaterial object is not taken away from its owner.

I admit that I prefer to use precise language instead of obscuring language.
bmcghie
5 / 5 (2) Jun 20, 2009
I'm not going to hold my breath until they actually get money out of this woman. :)

GIVE the songs away, or use an iTunes like distribution method for cheapz, and make people pay for the concerts. I LOVE paying for concerts! It's totally worth it. You get a massive soundsystem, awesome ambiance, and all sorts of like-minded people all meeting up to appreciate the talent of ONLY the groups of people directly responsible for the music.
Fazer
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2009
frajo,

I welcome another word for the act of downloading a file against the wishes of the legal copyright owner. And perhaps there is yet another word for the act of distributing said file to others, also against the wishes of the copyright owner, which is what she was accused of doing.
Fazer
2.3 / 5 (3) Jun 21, 2009
bmcghie,

I agree that concerts are cool social events and a good way for the artist to make a living. You say they should give away the songs, and an artist can certainly do that and make a living off the concerts.

But what if he or she decides to record a song. She could certainly do it all herself, but not all musicians are good sound engineers, so maybe she hires one of those. And then maybe she pays someone to design a nice CD jacket. Then she could spend all of her time taking the CD's around to stores to sell them, and listing the tracks with online outfits like iTunes and Amazon, but it would sure be a lot easier to hire someone to do that, too, and let her do what she does best: write and perform her music.

Well, it takes a lot of people to do that, if she chooses to go that route. It allows her to reach a bigger audience. That brings in more money and mostly just pays for the all of the extra staff. Maybe she makes more money personally, maybe not. Many artists only make a profit off the concerts, despite the big business aspect.

So, what does it all accomplish? It gets her a bigger audience and it creates jobs. The audience part is her personal reward, the jobs support all of the people she has networked with, maybe many of her friends. If she goes the corporate route, the same thing applies, just on a more massive scale, she just doesn't personally know most of those people, but they all work, for her, for themselves, and for the corporation of which they are a part.

So we have millions of people making a living by recording and promoting artists and their music.

Give it all away and no one has any jobs, they go into different fields. We end up with small acts in little venues, barely ekeing out an existence, the venerable starving artist. There is nothing wrong with that. It is more personable, more sociable. But every artist has the choice to take whatever route he or she wishes to take.

What right do we the consumers, the people who enjoy the efforts of the artists and those who support the artists, to dictate terms to them. They make the product, in whatever form, and they have the right to set the price. If we don't want to pay, we should just turn away and say, "Sorry, not interested."

What gives us the right to just take what we want from these people. Is it just because it is an intangible? A computer file?

One day we will be able to reproduce anything: files, objects, even thoughts. Do you want people to just come and rape you of all that you have that is unique? Make copies of you to keep and disect for their own use and never compensate you in any way?

We need a way to trade our efforts for the efforts of others. Right now that is money. In the future it might be in some other form, perhaps a reputation market, where if you contribute, you get rewarded with a higher reputation that everyone can see, and thus others are willing to contribute things back that you can use. Whatever you call it, it is still a form of trade, a form of money, currency, whatever.

Money, trade and business is not evil. Only people's actions can be evil.

Who is more evil, the person or group of people that creates something and sells it on the open market, where the consumer has the right to turn down the offer? Or the person or group of people that takes things from others and hands them out against the wishes of the creators and against the recognized law, thus undermining the ability of the creators to make a living?

All I am saying is: don't undermine the market before there is a new way for these people to make a living. We all need to help come up with an alternative, or accept the way things work now. The only other choice is chaos and anarchy.

BTW: Sorry for the long post.
frogz
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 21, 2009
Look. You people that are running around harping about finding a different way for artists to make a living cause they're loosing some imagined amount of money need to look at history. The history in particular you need to look at is the ability and wide spread use of cassettes to record songs on radios. It was legal and as far as i know, still is, and was used more often and by more people than anyone out there downloading a song. All of this "piracy" of songs is a complete joke that is wasting taxpayers judicial resources, for the greed of a few.
Fazer
3 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2009
frogz,

As far as I know, I am the only one here trying to discuss reasonable alternatives to the current system.

As for cassette tapes, there WAS a controversy over illegal dubbing of pre-recorded music and even off the radio. It wasn't as big of an issue as it is now, mostly because the cassette was such a poor medium for recording music.

Also, I don't think the artists/media companies are concerned as much with individuals "dubbing" copies from friends or from streaming sources. I think they are much more concerned with trying to stop the rampant distribution of songs, from one user to thousands or even millions of people, via P2P networks.

All I am saying is: what alternatives are there?

I know I can distribute my songs on iTunes, if I ever get to the point where I think they are worth distributing, that is. If I do that, then I get all of the revenue after iTunes takes their percentage, which I have no problem with.

Despite that freedom to distribute online that we now have, what incentive is there for me to spend my time composing a song, recording it, mastering it, posting it online and promoting myself if no one is going to compensate me for my efforts?

I work full time. I also enjoy making music, as a hobby, and that is all I need, but if I decide to focus more energy into making my music better, and sharing it with a much wider audience, and if those people enjoy my music and value it, shouldn't I be compensated for my time? It is no different than any other job, except that now, my efforts can be copied and passed around carelessly. It makes me not want to share my music at all.
Koen
5 / 5 (5) Jun 22, 2009
How did they prove she was downloading music?
By spying on her computer? So spying on consumer computers is legal, and also asking too much money for music CD is legal, which is stealing from consumers?

She can never pay 2 million dollar, so maybe she has to go to jail. I call this a severe violation of human rights.

Many famous musicians died penniless, and were robbed by the same record companies who charged this poor consumer. It is clear who is the master and who is the slave.
Simonsez
5 / 5 (4) Jun 22, 2009
The far-reaching cancer of greed has reared its ugly head again in the form of a malignant tumor called the RIAA. Tumor needs to be cut away and destroyed so that the body might have a chance to heal.
PaulLove
5 / 5 (4) Jun 22, 2009
Am I right in thinking the copyright now runs 75yrs or better? So is that really reasonable? Additionally as most of those artists contracts probably don't include electronic p2p distribution royalties all that money will go to the industry not the artists.

Additionally in the world of copyrighted material, they are copyrighging part of the human genome as they determine what its for so they can charge people to research cures for problems. Sooo if you successfully restrict research on a disease because you copyrighted a fragment of a gene are you legally responsible for everyone who dies of that disease while you restrict research?
nick7201969
5 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2009
There is something very wrong with this verdict. First, it is not even close to the first verdict. These judges should be relatively close in regards to fines and costs. Second, did the prosecution acquire the evidence through illegal means? And is there a possible counter lawsuit possible for illegal spying? I agree with most folks here about copyright laws but if you're going to go after a soccer mom then at least have the morals to prove that the evidence and proof against said defendent was done properly and legally. I had no idea that it is soo easy to spy on individuals rights.
donjoe0
5 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2009
Imagine that. And those evil goblins were supposed to be "a jury of her peers".

Her real peers were on the Net.
defunctdiety
5 / 5 (4) Jun 25, 2009
If the music industry put out quality product (would take the time to develop and support artists who would last for decades) for a reasonable price, people would pay for it and they would make money. But they want to keep sticking us with factory produced bands with factory produced songs and then ask 15$ for it? Good idea, major record labels, how's that business model working out for you?

Thank all that is rock for independent musicians and their independent labels. \m/
mattytheory
4 / 5 (3) Jun 26, 2009
LOL so she downloaded 24 songs, thats 2 CD's... retail cost is $30. How does that total $1.92M in damages?? Maybe legal fees cost $10k. I read somewhere that in justice, the punishment is supposed to fit the crime. This doesnt seem to add up...

I would go to court and right after the judge sentenced me I would then produce the paperwork for bankruptcy and ask if we can just proceed now with the bankruptcy hearing instead of waiting for a new court date.
web20lawyer
not rated yet Sep 01, 2009
These awards are punitive and have little resemblance to actual damages. As an Internet Lawyer I hear from many clients concerned about their liability exposure for online actions. We need a system to better protect copyright holders while preventing these unreasonably large awards. The music industry will gain a great deal more credibility if it pushes for reasonable damage awards rather then these punitive awards meant to send a message at the expense of the defendant.

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