As reported by techdirt, the third verdict by a Minnesota jury has led to a $1.5 million award to Capitol Records for her file sharing over Kazaa, representing $62,500 for each of the 24 songs she downloaded. Jammie Thomas-Rassett was the first file sharer to take an RIAA lawsuit to a jury trial. The only other file sharing case to have gone to a jury trial resulted in a Boston jury awarding $675,000 to the RIAA for 30 songs.
The case was one of the first in a phase where the RIAA made a decision to pursue individuals in copyright file sharing cases to deter online file sharing. Thousands of letters were sent to other individuals threatening to sue them in Court unless they agreed to pay a sum in the order of a few thousand dollars.
After the last trial, a U.S. District Judge ordered both sides to settle but negotiations foundered. In the second jury trial the Minnesota jury awarded $1.92 million, reduced by the Judge to $54,000 stating that it was disproportionate to the actual damage. He ordered a new trial or a settlement. The jury rejected arguments that that earlier awards in the case against Thomas-Rassett were excessive.
The RIAA offered to settle the case for $25,000 on the condition the last legal ruling was dismissed. Thomas-Rassett declined to accept that offer and appealed the damages award.
The Copyright Act enables a jury to award statutory damages ranging from $750 to $150,000 per violation.
The appeals courts would be more inclined to take on the case in preference to avoiding endless trials. The case has dragged on since 2007 when the first judgement was handed down which was declared a mistrial over a misdirection by the Judge to the jury.
The RIAAs position has been that the Judge didn’t have any power to lower damages, whilst Thomas-Rassett argued the damages were excessive.
It is likely that Thomas-Rassett will appeal the verdict again.
If Thomas-Rassett able to afford to pay the $25,000 even filing for bankruptcy this would not affect her liability to pay the judgement.