The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is preparing for a third trial to once again determine damages, which have so far ranged from $54,000 to $1.92 million, to be paid by Jammie Thomas-Rasset who has been accused (and found guilty) of sharing 24 songs illegally on file sharing networks. Last year, the mother of four from Minnesota was ordered to pay $1.92 million in damages for sharing the music.
Last week, Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis reduced the damages to $54,000, declaring that the $1.92 million figure was “monstrous and shocking.” The RIAA was given until Wednesday to accept the decision or to reject it, which would result in a new trial. The trade group announced it will reject the decision and go to another trial, as Thomas-Rasset turned down an opportunity to settle the case.
Attorneys for Thomas-Rasset said she would not accept a settlement offer from the RIAA, which would have her paying $25,000 to a charity for struggling artists. “Jammie is not going to agree to pay any amount of money to them,” Attorney Joe Sibley said, adding that it doesn’t matter to Thomas-Rasset whether the damages are $25,000 or $1.92 million.
“For her, it’s all the same. She just doesn’t have the money to pay any of those, and it would be financially ruinous,” Sibley said. She will continue to fight the case on principal, believing that the statutes that allow for such hefty damages in these types of cases are wrong.
Result for: judge michael
The RIAA has been denied their request to appeal a judge’s decision that has granted a retrial in the RIAA’s case versus Jammie Thomas.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Minnesota originally declared the trial a mistrial, and nullified the jury’s $222,000 award against Thomas over her alleged sharing of 24 songs on Kazaa. The mistrial was declared because the judge erroneously told the jury that downloading music from P2P networks constitutes as copyright infringement, when it in fact, does not.
Davis added that “actual distribution of copyrighted music must be shown,” meaning that the RIAA must prove that others downloaded the music Thomas was sharing. The RIAA admitted that it would be virtually impossible to do so.
Result for: judge michael
Last year a Minnesota woman became the first person ever to lose a P2P copyright infringement case to the RIAA. It was initially heralded as a victory for the RIAA’s argument that simply offering files for download violated copyright holders’ exclusive rights. But after Thomas appealed the decision she was granted a new trial based on the judge’s determination that the RIAA’s legal theory was directly contradicted by everything from legislative intent to prior caselaw. But instead of getting her day in court she’s once again fighting for her new trial as the RIAA looks to appeal her appeal.
Confused yet? Well that’s probably the point. In fact, like much of what RIAA lawyers claim, their justification for appealing the decision doesn’t seem to have much in common with the facts. It goes something like this.
The entire “making available” claim is based on a number of cases involving secondary infringement. In each of those cases the defendant was a third party who contributed to someone else’s copyright infringement. In setting aside the original judgement and ordering a new trial Judge Michael J. Davis said as much.
Now RIAA lawyers are asking to delay the new trial while they appeal his decision to grant the new trial. And the reasoning behind the request? Basically they’re ignoring what the judge said and claiming there’s dissent among different judges as to whether simply offering files for download constitutes distribution of those files.