Verdict in filesharing suit: $220,000

Verdict in filesharing suit: $220,000

Summary: Standing up to RIAA blackmail isn't looking like such a great idea for Jammie Thomas today. After refusing to settle and taking the matter to trial, Thomas was socked with a $220,000 judgment Thursday.

Standing up to RIAA blackmail isn't looking like such a great idea for Jammie Thomas today. After refusing to settle and taking the matter to trial, Thomas was socked with a $220,000 judgment Thursday. While under copyright law, the jury could have found her liable for as little as $750 per infringement, it found that Thomas had "willfully" infringed 24 copyrights and whacked her with a rate of $9,250 per.
"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, 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."

Topics: Browser, Enterprise Software, Government US, Hardware, Mobility, Piracy, Security

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  • What a two faced buch of a$$holes

    The RIAA does this kinda crap and than pulls some content out of iTuens and tries to sell MP3s itself through Amazon? You know why? because Steve Jobs would not up the price on more recent hits like what Sony and company wanted. So they (RIAA) are cutting off their nose to spite their face! Steve wants a 99 cent fixed price per song not some confusing $6 for that and 30 cents for that kinda pricing. Like they (RIAA) is not making enough profit on the iTunes sales now. They (RIAA) are greedy, b@$tards, that is all.
  • RE: Verdict in filesharing suit: $220,000

    What's insane is that this woman pays $220,000 while Kazaa goes free. She could not have committed the infringement if Kazaa hadn't lured her (or her kids, perhaps) into installing Kazaa -- which will share whatever it finds.

    People should be punished for knowingly infringing on copyrights but so should the vendors who push tools with this capability with little or no effort to police the use of those tools. Kazaa, and others like them may include disclaimers (wink, wink) but they make no effort to make it hard for their customers to break the law. In fact, they make it easy!
    M Wagner
    • Question

      Are you proposing that developers and distributors of software that facilitates copyright infringement be held liable the infringement so facilitated? Seems to me that this would include a lot more than P2P software (browsers, web servers, CD burners, rippers, FTP clients/servers, etc).
      John L. Ries
      • Secondary liability

        I don't have the doctrine in front of me, but there is definitely a doctrine of secondary liability for copyright infringement. Basically, if Kazaa sold a product with the intent to lure users to infringe or even with knowledge of substantial likelihood that they would infringe, there may be secondary liability. This is precisely what happened to Grokster. So, legally speaking, IMO Wagner is correct: they could after Kazaa. Your hypothetical ftp client would not fall under this doctrine bc you have to show intent/knowledge. I'm not sure if substantial noninfringing uses (Sony) would apply here but I think it would.

        The question is why they go after users instead of vendors. To create FUD. If users think they're safe because RIAA will only go after vendors, they'll always find another p2p solution. Since killing vendors is a game of whack a mole, RIAA opts for sewing fear in the populace. This jury has advanced their cause immeasurably.

  • RE: Verdict in filesharing suit: $220,000

    The verdict is absurd. There have been a number of software and copywright cases that have been brought and failed due to the fact that the industry did not make any effort to protect their assets. There is not copy protection on the product. there is no blocking or attempt to lock digital copyright material. If the person purchased the material legitametly and put it on their computer and the industry did not make any effort either in writing on the original disk or any attempt to lock the material preventing it from being copied or shared, then the music industry can go pound sand. This argument has been successfully used in court.

    I don't bother with music on my computer as I have little time to listen to it, but I am outraged by the music industry and congress for supporting unabashed greed. The material should be made available on line at a reasonable price. I am not interested in their usless albums, and I reserve the right to generate a music selection of my liking as long as I have purchased the original material and can support my purchase with the original labels.
    • Good theory

      That's actually a really interesting legal theory - failure to protect. Do you have some citations where this has been used in court?

  • RIAA can go soak their collective heads!!

    As an older music lover (1954), the self-serving/destroying tactics the RIAA are using will have an eventual backlash. I have [b]never[/b] bought a music CD yet. I'm still using 78 LP's!
    IMHO this [i]should[/i] come under the "fair use" that has worked for VHS tapes for years. The [i]only[/i] difference is that the tapes were [i]analog copies[/i] & this is an [i][b]exact digital copy.[/b][/i] This is what is scaring them out of their mind!
  • RE: Verdict in filesharing suit: $220,000

    What's to keep this woman from declaring bankruptcy and stiffing the RIAA? She's past the "point of no return".

    What then happens is, instead of the RIAA talking ad nauseam about "consequences for breaking the law" (even though this was a civil trial, and not a criminal trial where the standard of proof is higher), you now have the poster child for the "RIAA taking everything you got" and bankrupting a poor woman, liable or not.

    Methinks the RIAA REALLY shot themselves in the foot (or other body parts) on this one. They may stop some up/downloaders, but I think the disc-swappers will redouble their efforts just to spite the RIAA and take this judgement back out of Big Music's bottom line.

    It's harder to argue that "piracy is theft" when you win legal judgements so out of proportion to actual, or even reasonable punitive, damages. In other words, who's the thief now?
  • The UFF should have found someone with an umbrella policy...

    If the EFF encourged her to go to court & the attorneys representing her didn't discourage her...then neither group did her any service.

    The EFF, if guilty of encouraging her to fight this, should have found someone less vulnerable to financial ruin. This isn't as difficult as it sounds.

    Any citizen paying only $100/year for a simple Umbrella Policy good for up to $1,000,000 in coverage would have been a better candidate. If the EFF encouraged her...they should be also sued for giving very poor legal advice.
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  • RE: Verdict in filesharing suit: $220,000

    RIAA is fighting a losing battle,file sharing is here to stay and since they can't get the "big fish" they go for children and housewives to justify that they are doing "something" (even if it is desperate) to earn their paychecks.Sickening!