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Music Filesharing Mom Seeks New Trial

A federal jury ruled last month that Jammie Thomas-Rasset had illegally downloaded 24 songs. She was fined $1.92 million.

Faced with a $1.92 million fine for illegally downloading copyright-protected music from the Internet, a Minnesota mother of four is seeking to have the penalty lowered to $18,000 or to undergo another trial in her case.

After a federal jury ruled last month that Jammie Thomas-Rasset had illegally downloaded 24 songs, the case remains in legal limbo, because the self-described "mom of limited means" is unlikely to be able to raise the necessary funds and the adversary in her case, the Recording Industry Association of America, wants to hold the guilty verdict in abeyance against other illegal music downloaders. The RIAA has said it is willing to settle for a lesser amount, but that offer hasn't drawn any serious interest at this stage in the case. In the past, the RIAA routinely took alleged violators of online music downloading to court, but now usually works with Internet service providers to throttle violators. Previously, several thousand lawsuits initiated by the RIAA were settled, typically for between $3,000 and $5,000 each.

In filings in Minneapolis this week, Thomas-Rasset's attorneys sought to mitigate the earlier award. Her attorney, Kiwi Camera, said the RIAA didn't "attempt to offer evidence of their actual injuries, seeking, instead, an award of statutory damages entirely for the purposes of punishment and deterrence." Camera said the $1.92 million award "shocks the conscience and must be set aside." According to media reports, Camera said he would appeal the jury verdict if a new trial isn't ordered.

RIAA attorneys have argued that the distribution of music alleged to have been carried out by Thomas-Rasset multiplied to a degree that is "literally incalculable."

Judge Michael Davis, who presided over the last trial as well as another in 2007, had urged Congress to rewrite the copyright laws, although he said he did not condone Thomas-Rasset's action. "The Court would be remiss if it did not take this opportunity to implore Congress to amend the Copyright Act to address liability and damages in peer-to-peer network cases."

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