Judge reduces $2M music-sharing verdict to $54k

A Minnesota judge reduced the $2 million in damages that a jury ordered file-sharer Jammie Thomas-Rasset to pay, calling the original verdict "monstrous and shocking."

Thomas-Rasset was one of the first people to receive a guilty verdict in a music-sharing case backed by the Recording Industry Association of America. She won a retrial after she was found guilty of infringing copyrights and initially ordered to pay $220,000, but the jury in the retrial dramatically increased the fine, ordering her to pay $1.92 million.

On Friday, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota reduced the verdict to $54,000 but said he would have shrunk it further if he could have.

"This reduced award is significant and harsh," Judge Michael Davis wrote in his ruling. "It is a higher award than the court might have chosen to impose in its sole discretion. It was the jury's province to determine the award of statutory damages and this Court has merely reduced that award to the maximum amount that is no longer monstrous and shocking."

The figure amounts to three times the statutory minimum for infringement of sound recordings or $2,250 per each of the 24 songs that Thomas-Rasset has been accused of stealing.

Thomas-Rasset has seven days to decide whether to pay or request a new trial.

Another accused music sharer is similarly looking for a reduction in damages. Joel Tenenbaum, a Ph.D. student at Boston University, was ordered to pay $675,000 for illegally sharing music online. In January he asked for a retrial and a reduction of the damages verdict.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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