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First RIAA piracy lawsuit ends with supreme court refusal

updated 03:46 pm EDT, Mon March 18, 2013

Nine year old saga concludes with refusal to review previous judgements

Finally closing the door on the trial, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal from file sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset. As it now stands, the Minnesota woman owes the top record labels $220,000 stemming from the 2007 lawsuit finding her liable for sharing 24 songs online. Thomas-Rasset was one of two defendants who did not settle with the group, with both found to have shared the music and slapped with monumental fines for doing so.

Thomas-Rasset had her case heard by two different juries, and both juries found sufficient evidence to find her liable for sharing the songs on the long-defunct Kazaa service. Her first trial ended in October of 2007, and the record companies were awarded $220,000 in actual damages. However, the judge in the first trial issued an order indicating that there was a probable "manifest error of law" in the jury instructions, and vacated the judgement.

The retrial began on June 15, 2009, and in that trial the jury hammered Thomas-Rasset with a $1.92 million dollar actual and punitive fine. The woman's legal team filed a motion declaring that the judgement was disproportional to the actual damages, and as such, unconstitutional. In January of 2010, the judge reduced the damages to $54,000, calling the original damages "monstrous and shocking."

The RIAA then offered a $25,000 settlement to the woman, which she declined. A third trial in October of 2010 reaffirmed the $54,000 fine. The record labels then filed for an appeal.

On September 11, 2012, the appeals court decreed that the original $220,000 damage assessment was constitutional. Today's supreme court refusal of certiorari, or a judicial review, ends the saga. In a statement regarding the refusal, the RIAA said that "we appreciate the Court's decision and are pleased that the legal case is finally over. We've been willing to settle this case from day one, and remain willing to do so" -- potentially leaving the door open for a smaller dollar amount that Thomas-Rasset will ultimately pay.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Geoduck

    Junior Member

    Joined: 01-14-10

    comment title

    The US legal system is a joke.
    More precisely the US Legal system, like the rest of the US government is a wholly owned subsidiary of big corporations.
    Apparently the US courts have forgotten the part of the CONSTITUTION about cruel and unusual punishment. She gets penalized for file sharing, OK fine, but nearly $10,000 per song is asinine. A disgrace. It fits both the letter and the spirit of cruel and unusual. But a few payments behind the scenes and that's the way it is.

  1. Sebastien

    Registered User

    Joined: 04-29-00

    Like with Aaron Swartz

    The government/corporations were only looking to 'make an example' out of her - no interest in actual "justice".

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    10,000 per song?

    If the songs were illegally downloaded to her machine only, then yes. $10,000 per song.

    The question is, are there numbers indicating how many times the songs were downloaded specifically FROM her machine running Kazaa?
    If no direct and specific damage can be shown regarding the mere availability of those 24 songs, then potentially a fine of reasonable weight could be found.

    If each song was downloaded 10,000 times, then it's a dollar per song? I'm just sayin'. And that wouldn't even include a commensurate penalty for engaging in the activity (sharing copy written material without consent of the holder/s).

    If there were mitigating circumstances, then the judgement should be reduced, but the evil RIAA has offered to settle, and still is willing to.

  1. Chongo

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 08-16-07

    I record music off air from my local FM station with a cassette deck and give them to friends. Is The RIAA going to come after me?

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