Minnesota song-sharing case heads for 3rd trial

January 28, 2010 By AMY FORLITI , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A trade group representing the major music labels said Wednesday it will reject a reduced penalty for a central Minnesota woman found guilty of sharing 24 songs over the Internet, and will instead begin preparing for another trial to determine new damages.

The made the decision after attorneys for Jammie Thomas-Rasset rejected an offer from RIAA attorneys to settle. It will be the third time the case, which dates back to 2006, will see trial in a federal courtroom in Minnesota.

Last year, a ruled Thomas-Rasset, a mother of four from Brainerd, willfully violated the copyrights on 24 songs. She was ordered to pay $1.92 million in damages, or $80,000 per song. Last week, Chief U.S. Michael Davis reduced the verdict to about $54,000 in damages, calling the jury's penalty "monstrous and shocking."

The RIAA has until Feb. 8 to either accept or reject the reduced penalty. The group said Wednesday it would do the latter, meaning a new trial will be scheduled to determine damages.

In a letter to Thomas-Rasset's attorneys, lawyers for the RIAA noted they would consider accepting an amount less than the jury's $1.92 million award, but "we believe portions of the Court's analysis are inconsistent with Congressional intent and the law."

The letter also offered a different option: a settlement of $25,000, which would go to a charity for struggling musicians.

Joe Sibley, an attorney for Thomas-Rasset, said his client would not settle.

"Jammie is not going to agree to pay any amount of money to them," Sibley said, adding that it doesn't matter to Thomas-Rasset whether the damages are $25,000 or $1.92 million.

"For her, it's all the same. She just doesn't have the money to pay any of those, and it would be financially ruinous," Sibley said.

Sibley said Thomas-Rasset would continue fighting on principle, saying the statutes that allow for such hefty damages in these types of cases are wrong. Once damages are finalized, he said, he intends to take the constitutionality of the damages to the appellate level.

The RIAA letter said that while a third trial is not in anyone's best interest, the group pursued the case to show Thomas-Rasset was responsible for infringements and that serious damage was caused. The letter also said the RIAA wanted to deter Thomas-Rasset and others from sharing songs in the future.

"It is a shame that Ms. Thomas-Rasset continues to deny any responsibility for her actions rather than accept a reasonable settlement offer and put this case behind her," said RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth.

The RIAA had offered to settle with Thomas-Rasset before, for $3,000 to $5,000. Last June's judgment came after Thomas-Rasset's second trial. In 2007, a different federal jury had called for a $222,000 penalty, but Davis ordered a new trial after deciding he had erred in giving jury instructions.

The vast majority of people targeted by industry lawsuits have settled for about $3,500 each. The recording industry has said it stopped filing such lawsuits and is instead working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders.

Federal law says recording companies are entitled to $750 to $30,000 per illegally downloaded song - but a jury may raise that to as much as $150,000 per track if it finds the infringements were willful.

Explore further: Industry wants to ban Minn. woman from downloading


Related Stories

Industry wants to ban Minn. woman from downloading

July 6, 2009

(AP) -- Just weeks after a federal jury ruled that a Minnesota woman must pay $1.92 million for illegally sharing copyright-protected music, the recording industry wants to make sure she doesn't do it again.

Judge slashes 'monstrous' fine in music piracy case

January 25, 2010

Condemning a two-million-dollar fine meted out to a Minnesota woman for illegally downloading music over the Internet as "monstrous and shocking," a judge has slashed the penalty to 54,000 dollars.

Minimal damages sought in Mass. song-download case

July 31, 2009

(AP) -- A lawyer for a Boston University student who admitted illegally downloading and sharing music urged a federal jury Friday to "send a message" to the music industry by awarding only minimal damages.

Big fine could be big trouble in downloading case

June 19, 2009

(AP) -- The $1.92 million verdict against a Minnesota woman accused of sharing 24 songs over the Internet could ratchet up the pressure on other defendants to settle with the recording industry - if the big fine can withstand ...

Recommended for you

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jan 28, 2010
The largest damage inflicted upon the RIAA supporters is generated by their greedy and humiliating behavior.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.