A jury ruling in the only US file-sharing case to go to trial said Thursday that a woman must pay nearly $2 million to recording companies for illegally sharing 24 songs by artist such as Gloria Estefan, Green Day and Sheryl Crow.
In a replay of an earlier trial, the jury found that Jammie Thomas-Rasset willfully violated copyrights, awarding the companies $80,000 per song, or $1.92 million.
Thomas-Rasset's second trial actually turned out worse for her. When a different federal jury heard her case in 2007, it hit Thomas-Rasset with a $222,000 judgment.
The new trial was ordered after the judge in the case decided he had erred in giving jury instructions.
Outside the courtroom, Thomas-Rassert said she would never be able to pay up.
"There's no way they're ever going to get that," said Thomas-Rasset, a 32-year-old mother of four from the central Minnesota city of Brainerd. "I'm a mom, limited means, so I'm not going to worry about it now."
Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, said the industry remains willing to settle but she refused to name a figure.
In closing arguments earlier on Thursday, attorneys for both sides disputed what the evidence showed.
Defence attorney Joe Sibley said the music companies failed to prove allegations that Thomas-Rasset gave away songs. Sibley urged jurors not to ruin Thomas-Rasset's life with a debt she could never pay. Under federal law, the jury could have awarded up to $150,000 per song.
An attorney for the recording industry, Tim Reynolds, said the "greater weight of the evidence" showed that Thomas-Rasset was responsible for the illegal file-sharing that took place on her computer. He urged jurors to hold her accountable to deter others from a practice he said has significantly harmed the people who bring music to everyone.
For the retrial, Davis instructed the jurors that in order to find Thomas-Rasset infringed any copyrights, they had to determine that someone actually downloaded the songs. He said distribution needed to occur, though he didn't explicitly define distribution. Before, Davis said simply making the songs available on the Kazaa file-sharing network was enough.
This case was the only one of more than 30,000 similar lawsuits to make it all the way to trial. The vast majority of people targeted by the music industry had settled for about $3,500 each. The recording industry has said it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead now working with internet service providers to fight the worst offenders.
In testimony this week, Thomas-Rasset denied she shared any songs. On Wednesday, the self-described "huge music fan" raised the possibility for the first time in the long-running case that her children or ex-husband might have done it.
The recording companies accused Thomas-Rasset of offering 1,700 songs on Kazaa as of February 2005, before the company became a legal music subscription service following a settlement with entertainment companies. For simplicity's sake the music industry tried to prove only 24 infringements.
The companies that sued Thomas-Rasset are subsidiaries of all four major recording companies, Warner Music, Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, EMI and Sony's Sony Music Entertainment.
The recording industry has blamed online piracy for declines in music sales, although other factors include the rise of legal music sales online, which emphasize buying individual tracks rather than full albums.Reuse content