Jammie Thomas, a 30-year old woman from Brainerd, Minnesota, was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for music pirating by illegal sharing of songs in Duluth, Minnesota. She was represented by Minneapolis attorney Brian Toder.
On October 4, 2007, the final day of her trial, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis and the jury charged her with $222,000 worth of damages, which came to $9,250 per song.
At the trial, jurors decided that Thomas willfully violated the copyright of 24 music files consisting of such bands as Aerosmith, Green Day, and Guns 'N' Roses on Kazaa, under the username of tereastarr@KaZaA.
Thomas, a single mother of two who makes $36,000 at her job, originally denied being the owner of the Kazaa file sharing account, but later confirmed on both her MySpace page and a YouTube video that she was indeed the owner of the account.
The hard drive containing the alleged copyrighted songs was never presented at the trial. There was no evidence showing that the Kazaa account had allowed others to effectively download the files.
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Thomas has decided to appeal the verdict. One point of contention is around Jury Instruction No. 15, which says: "The act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network, without license from he copyright owners, violates the copyright owners' exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown." In their appeal, the defense apparently plans to argue that the law cannot be shown to have been broken unless actual distribution of files is proved. In other words, the plaintiff must prove that other Kazaa users did in fact download songs that Thomas had shared.
The appeal was granted and Thomas is now being defended pro bono by K.A.D. Camara and Joe Sibley in a retrial. On June 18, 2009 the federal jury ruled in favor of the RIAA and the recording companies $1.92 million, or $80,000 per song.
Reduction of fine
In January 2010, udge Michael J. Davis reduced the penalty from $80,000 per song to $2,250 per song for 24 songs, bringing the total fine to $54,000. In the decision (PDF), the judge wrote:
"The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music. Moreover, although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages."
RIAA Offer to Settle
Judge Davis had given the RIAA until February 8 to accept or reject the new amount of $54,000. The RIAA made Jammie Thomas an offer of $25,000 (to be paid over time) to settle but she refused. Joe Sibley, one of Jammie’s pro bono lawyers, said she won't "agree to pay any amount of money to them." He added, "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."
In June 2010, judge Davis had appointed Jonathan Lebedoff as the special master to help facilitate a settlement. Following Thomas's refusal to settle even for $25,000 the RIAA pushed for a third trial on October 4. This trial only considered the issue of damages. In November 2010, the jury in the third trial decided that she was liable for $1.5 million in copyright infringement damages to Capitol Records, or $62,500 for each song she illegally shared. Jammie Thomas-Rasset's attorney said they would appeal the decision.