RIAA Fines Minnesota Mom $1.5 Million for 24 Songs

Minnesota mother of four Jammie Thomas-Rasset spent the last few years in court battling the RIAA over how much a song is worth. Thomas-Rasset is being penalized for downloading and sharing 24 songs on the peer-to-peer file sharing network Kazaa in 2006, but how much she owes the record labels has been the debate at hand. The jury in her third trial just ruled that she should pay Capitol Records $1.5 million, according to CNET, which is roughly $62,500 per song.  It’s a heavy penalty, considering, had she bought the 24 songs legally through, say, iTunes, she’d have only paid about $24 – which was Thomas-Rasset’s argument, as well (though, in the RIAA’s defense, she didn’t.)

Thomas-Rasset has become the face of the record industry’s battle against illegal downloaders.  In 2007, the jury in her first trial demanded she pay $222,000 for violating the copyright on more than 1,700 songs by Green Day, Aerosmith, and Richard Marx, to name a few artists (and by the way, Marx has said he is “ashamed” to be associated with the “farcical” prosecution of an illegal downloader. Go Richard!), Thomas-Rasset has maintained that she was not the computer user who did the file sharing.

A trial in 2009 led to a much, much harsher result: she would have to pay a ridiculous fine of $1.92 million. However, earlier this year a U.S. District Court judge found that fee to be “monstrous and shocking” and a “gross injustice”, then lowered it to $54,000, or $2,250 a song (still pretty ridiculous if you ask me).

The RIAA, the organization that represents the four major record labels, was pleased by the most recent decision, even if it has no intention of actually collecting the $1.5 million (um, what?).  Earlier this year, the RIAA offered Thomas-Rasset the opportunity to end the legal battle for $25,000 and an admission of guilt, a deal she declined (and good for her – she never strayed from the story that she wasn’t the one sharing). The RIAA says simply that “it is our hope that she finally accepts responsibility for her actions,” which sounds an awful lot like a scolding mother-figure, in my opinion.

Thomas-Rasset and her legal team are currently making plans to appeal, setting up a fourth trial. But even if there is a fourth trial, the RIAA would likely still not concede that file sharing should be without consequence. 

Is it just me, or is this getting out of hand? She allegedly downloaded the files in 2006, and four years later, she’s planning a fourth trial? How much debt in legal fees is this woman racking up? I understand the whole ‘making a point’ aspect of her plight, but at some point wouldn’t you just throw in the towel – especially if the RIAA says they aren’t going to collect the money, that they just want you to ‘accept responsibility’?

What do you guys think? Is this a fair ruling? I say she should’ve just stolen the actual CDs from a big box store like, say, Best Buy, since the penalty for stealing tangibles is most likely a LOT less than $1.5 million.

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