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Federal Jury: Music Downloader Owes $1.92 Million

Decision is a victory for the RIAA in its crackdown on illegal music file sharing.

W. David Gardner

June 19, 2009

2 Min Read

Jammie Thomas-Rasset went to trial this week hoping to nullify an earlier judgment against her on charges that she illegally downloaded music from the Internet. But in this week's jury trial, she was deemed liable to pay $80,000 per song, or $1.92 million.

An earlier jury had delivered a verdict in which she was deemed liable for $9,250 for each downloaded song.

This week's trial, in a Minnesota federal court, was short and sweet for the Recording Industry Association of America, which had brought the charges against Thomas-Rasset in the nation's sole music file-sharing case that has gone to trial. The RIAA recently changed its tactics against what it maintains is the illegal downloading of music from the Internet. Now it's asking Internet service providers to send warnings to suspected illegal downloaders.

"There's no way they're ever going to get that [money]," said Thomas-Rasset after the trial Thursday, according to media reports. "I'm a mom, limited means, so I'm not going to worry about it now."

RIAA attorneys had argued that evidence showed Thomas-Rasset was responsible for what they termed illegal music downloading that occurred on her computer. Her attorneys claimed that RIAA attorneys hadn't proved that she was the person who did the actual downloading from her computer.

In the end, the jury awarded the RIAA $1.92 million, or $80,000 a song. Earlier, the RIAA had initiated more than 30,000 lawsuits against people it claimed had illegally downloaded music. Most of them settled for $3,500, but some said they were innocent of the charges but didn't have the financial resources to defend themselves in expensive litigation.

An official for the RIAA said the association was willing to settle for a figure of less than $80,000 a song.

In a newly published Harvard Business School paper, two economists argue that while file sharing has weakened copyright protection, weak copyright protection benefits society.

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