The only thing worse than losing a copyright-infringement lawsuit that ends with a $122,000 judgment against you is getting a retrial only to end up with a eye-popping $1.9 million judgment against you.
AP Photo/Julia Cheng, File
A 2007 photo of Jammie Thomas-Rasset of Brainerd, Minn.
AP Photo/Julia Cheng, File
That's the predicament Jammie Thomas-Rasset found herself in on Thursday after losing her second trial to the Recording Industry Association of America for making music files available on her computer via Kazaa.
The RIAA will likely not see any sum near the jury award from Thomas-Rasset, a mother of four from Brainerd, Minn. But the RIAA sends yet another message to those who would share music files of copyrighted works that there's always the risk it will make their lives miserable if it has to.
The Associated Press gives us this paragraph explaining why we should care:
This case was the only one of more than 30,000 similar lawsuits to make it all the way to trial. The vast majority of people targeted by the music industry had settled for about $3,500 each. The recording industry has said it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead now working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders.
In a statement, RIAA's Cara Duckworth said:
"We appreciate the jury's service and that they take this as seriously as we do. We are pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable. Since day one, we have been willing to settle this case and we remain willing to do so."
The AP has this summary of the charges against Thomas-Rasset:
The recording companies accused Thomas-Rasset of offering 1,700 songs on Kazaa as of February 2005, before the company became a legal music subscription service following a settlement with entertainment companies. For simplicity's sake the music industry tried to prove only 24 infringements.
Reynolds argued Thursday that the evidence clearly pointed to Thomas-Rasset as the person who made the songs available on Kazaa under the screen name "tereastarr." It's the same nickname she acknowledged having used for years for her e-mail and several other computer accounts, including her MySpace page.
Reynolds said the copyright security company MediaSentry traced the files offered by "tereastarr" on Kazaa to Thomas-Rasset's Internet Protocol address — the online equivalent of a street address — and to her modem.
The same story reports that Thomas-Rasset threw her family under the bus as part of her defense:
In testimony this week, Thomas-Rasset denied she shared any songs. On Wednesday, the self-described "huge music fan" raised the possibility for the first time in the long-running case that her children or ex-husband might have done it. The defense did not provide any evidence, though, that any of them had shared the files.
Thomas-Rasset was evidently surprised by the size of the award. This from Ars Technica:
As the dollar amount was read in court, Thomas-Rasset gasped and her eyes widened.
One of her lawyers, Kiwi Carmara, had this interpretation of the jury's actions, again from Ars Technica:
Camara suspects that the jury thought Thomas-Rasset was a liar and were "angry about it," thus leading to the $80,000 per-song damages.