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Minnesota jury orders woman to pay RIAA $222,000 for illegal music sharing

Verdict possible shot in the arm for recording industry effort

October 5, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A federal jury in Duluth, Minn., on Thursday ordered a Minneapolis woman to pay $220,000 to six music companies for illegally downloading and sharing copyrighted music over a peer-to-peer network.

The 12-person jury said Jammie Thomas must pay $9,250 for each of the 24 songs that were the focus of the case. In their complaint, the six music companies that sued her had claimed that Thomas had illegally shared a total of 1,702 songs over the Kazaa file-sharing network, but they chose to focus on a representative list of 24 songs.

The verdict was greeted with dismay by many in the blogosphere who have been following the case closely for some time now.

New York lawyer Ray Beckerman, writing in the Recording Industry vs The People blog, called the verdict "one of the most irrational things I have ever seen in my life in the law."

"A verdict of $222,000 for infringement of 24 song files worth a total of $23.76?" he asked. "It is an outrage, and I hope it is a wake-up call to the world that we all need to start supporting the defendants in these cases."

Commenting on Gizmodo.com, a reader identifying himself as DirtyBacon said he was shocked but not surprised by the verdict. "I guess my two mp3 players, that have thousands of songs that I bought on CD, are illegal contraband," he said. "My options of moving to Asian countries for work are looking more appealing. I've officially lost faith."

The six music companies that sued Thomas were Capitol Records Inc., Sony BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records Inc., UMG Recordings Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.

In their 12-page complaint filed with the U.S District Court in Duluth, the six recording companies claimed that on Feb. 21, 2005, an investigator working for the plaintiffs detected an individual -- later identified as Thomas -- distributing 1,702 audio files from a Kazaa shared folder on her computer.

The complaint alleged that Thomas was distributing the files for free over the Internet to potentially millions of other Kazaa users. The companies claimed that Thomas knew such conduct was unlawful but willfully proceeded with violating copyrights. They also said that Thomas intentionally concealed her infringement by "fabricating a clean hard drive to produce to Plaintiffs for inspection."

"Copyright infringement is a strict liability offense, and Plaintiffs need not demonstrate Defendant's intent to infringe, or even knowledge of infringement, in order to prove copyright infringement," the companies said in their complaint.

In her defense, Thomas, who is a single mother, claimed that she did not download anything from Kazaa or any other file-sharing network. She questioned whether the companies that were suing her were really the true copyright owners of the music in question.



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