"This is what can happen if you don't settle," RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel told reporters outside the courthouse. "I think we have sent a message we are willing to go to trial."
While the RIAA seemed to have amassed an impressive battery of circumstantial evidence, it did not directly prove that Thomas violated the law, Wired notes.
In proving liability, the industry did not have to demonstrate that the defendant's computer had a file-sharing program installed at the time that they inspected her hard drive. And the RIAA did not have to show that the defendant was at the keyboard when RIAA investigators accessed Thomas' share folder.
Also, the judge in the case ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files. That was a big bone of contention that U.S. District Judge Michael Davis settled in favor of the industry.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Fred von Lohmann said that several copyright attorneys had contacted him about representing Thomas on an appeal, News.com reports.
"There are a lot of copyright lawyers who would be interested in helping her if that she wants to continue this," von Lohmann said. "I'd imagine that she doesn't want to pay $200,000. We'll see what she wants to do."Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman, said: "This decision affirms what we've said all along. This kind of action is illegal and when people break the law there can be real consequences."
But EFF's Cindy Cohn said the punishment does not fit the crime.
"The laws were written for pirates, guys pressing scores of DVDs," Cohn said. "I think this judgment is a clear indication that damages for copyright laws need to be adjusted to reflect today's reality. A mom in her home isn't the same as a pirate, but the copyright law doesn't see any difference."
Was Thomas suckered by the EFF into taking this case to trial? Chris Castle, a copyright attorney and longtime music industry executive, charged as much. After all, she could have settled for probably $3,000 to $5,000, like most other RIAA targets. If the judgment stands, she could lose everything she has.
"This woman found lawyers who tried to make her the Joan of Arc of illegal downloading. And are they going to write the check?" Castle said. "This woman doesn't know the law. What she knows is she was downloading and someone comes to her and says lets fight back. You find some lawyer to take the case and all of a sudden the music stops and there's no chair for her. This person has been hoodwinked by people who don't have her best interest at heart."
Cohn called that assertion a "lie," saying, "We help people get lawyers and we tell people they should make those decisions with their lawyers. We're on the side of the people being sued."