The RIAA's successful case against a Minnesota woman accused of downloading 24 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network results in a $1.92 million fine that reportedly shocked even the RIAA's star witness. The RIAA has been prosecuting an aggressive campaign against illegal music downloaders, even as P2P networks show little sign of declining.
One of the Recording Industry Association of America's primary witnesses in
its successful case against a Minnesota woman accused of illegally downloading
music, a lawyer with Sony, reportedly said he was "shocked" at the
size of the fine involved in the verdict handed down in the case.
On June 18, a Minnesota federal court ruled that Jammie Thomas-Rasset was
guilty of copyright violation for downloading 24 songs off the Kazaa
file-sharing network, fining her $1.92 million-or $80,000 per song.
"We were shocked. I suspected we were going to win, but I really
thought they would come in with a lower number," Gary Wade Leak informed
an audience at a weekend alumni event at Columbia
University, as reported by Ars
The Associated Press quoted a post-trial Thomas-Rasset as saying,
"There's no way they're ever going to get that ... I'm a mom, limited means,
so I'm not going to worry about it now." Perhaps with that fact in mind,
the RIAA was reportedly willing to settle for the far lesser amount of $3,000
This was actually Thomas-Rasset's second trial; the first, in 2007, ended
with the judge declaring a mistrial after she had been fined $222,000, which
translates to $9,250 for each of the 24 downloaded songs.
The RIAA has launched over 35,000 cases against people accused of illegal
music downloads, with the substantial bulk of them settled out of court, often
for comparatively miniscule amounts of money. Despite the ubiquity of peer-to-peer
networks, the RIAA has taken something of a scorched-earth approach to digital
dozens of letters to individuals it suspects of downloading content.
Those attempts have occasionally led to public-relations backfires, as in
the 2005 suit that the RIAA leveled in U.S. District Court against 83-year-old
Gertrude Walton for downloading music under the online handle
"smittenedkitten." The only problem was that Walton had died the
previous December. The RIAA dropped the suit.
However, the organization still seems determined to prosecute Joel
Tenenbaum, a Boston student accused
of illegally downloading music who's being defended by Harvard Law Professor
Charles Nesson in the upcoming trial.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.