Jammie Thomas-Rasset: The download martyr

RIAA fines Brainerd woman $220,000 for 24 songs

The jury was clearly unimpressed. This time they came back with an even bigger damage award: $80,000 per song, for a total of $1.92 million.

The record labels were careful not to look gleeful at the outcome. A spokesman on hand after the verdict told anyone who would listen that the industry had been willing to settle the case all along.

For Thomas-Rasset, the verdict tipped her life over into the realm of the absurd.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset lives with her husband, Chad, and their children in Brainerd
Steve Kohls
Jammie Thomas-Rasset lives with her husband, Chad, and their children in Brainerd

"I couldn't believe it," Thomas-Rasset says. "I mean, at first I was just overwhelmed. But then it was just funny. How were they ever going to collect that money? I'm never going to make that much money in my whole life."

   

JUDGE DAVIS AGREED that the jury's damage award was excessive. In January 2010, he exercised his power to adjust the amount. Calling the $1.92 million figure "monstrous and shocking," he slashed it to $54,000. He gave the RIAA a week to decide if it could live with the lower settlement.

For a moment, it seemed that the labels were considering walking away. The RIAA offered Thomas-Rasset a chance to settle out of court for even less money than the judgment: $25,000.

But she wasn't interested.

"I didn't want to make a deal with these labels. What they're doing with these threats and lawsuits is wrong," Thomas-Rasset says. "I talked to my dad about it, and his advice was, 'You have to fight for what you think is right.'"

So there would be a third trial. This time around, the question of whether Thomas-Rasset willfully infringed wouldn't be up for debate. The only issue would be how much she owed.

Last November, the trial geared up again. Camara and Sibley argued that the kinds of damages the industry was looking for were draconian, especially considering the songs in question could be bought for all of $24. The higher statutory damage range was intended to punish violators making big money off the copyrighted work of others, not small fish sharing the music for no personal gain.

The RIAA once again argued that more severe damages were necessary to protect their business, and hammered Thomas-Rasset for not taking responsibility for her actions.

This time the jury needed just two hours to come to its decision.

The foreman announced the figure: Thomas-Rasset owed $62,500 per song.

She scribbled some calculations on a piece of paper: 24 songs at $62,500 songs came to $1.5 million dollars.

"Even before they announced the verdict, I had my hand in front of my mouth," Thomas-Rasset says. "No matter what the amount of damages was, I knew I was going to be laughing."

   

WATCHING FOOTBALL WITH her family on a recent Saturday, Thomas-Rasset speaks with a resigned calm about the legal battle.

"We're waiting on the judge right now," she says. "We won't know what happens next until we hear from him."

Given that he considered the $1.92 million judgment in the second trial monstrous, it seems likely he will once again knock the jury's penalty down significantly.

But Thomas-Rasset's lawyers are pushing for more than that: They want him to eliminate the damages altogether. In December, they filed an argument that any damages at all in this case are unconstitutional.

Depending on whether Judge Davis agrees, there could be yet another trial over damages. Alternately, the case could be appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This could easily go another four or five years," Thomas-Rasset says. "I'm fine with that. As far as I'm concerned, this whole thing can go as far as it needs to go. In for a penny, in for a pound."

She acknowledges the irony of her situation. The first music-sharing lawsuit to go to trial, her case made the industry look so bad that the RIAA eventually gave up on suing music sharers all together. Now, years after labels have abandoned the strategy that brought her to court in the first place, she's still trapped in a seemingly interminable lawsuit.

"Yeah, it's kind of ridiculous," Thomas-Rasset says. "They know they're never going to get anything from me, but they just can't bear to let me go."

Yet regardless of the outcome, Thomas-Rasset feels it's all been worth it.

"Even if I don't win, I've still stopped them from extorting other people, extorting grandmothers and 12-year-olds," she says. "They were going to keep doing this until someone fought back. I fought back." 

How Americans Get Their Music

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21 comments
Nicolay Schjelderup
Nicolay Schjelderup

We have rape, war, murder, corruption, drug dealing, scamming and a ton of other crap going on every single fucking day, but with SOPA upcoming their priorities is just messed up. Rather than focusing on rape, war, murder, corruption etc. etc., they chose to sue innocent young people with their whole life ahead for millions of dollars.What the fuck?

Louie
Louie

I just took a dump listening to my new CD that I bought. Smelled really bad, but at least I had good music playing as I scrunched up my face and pushed it all out. It took two flushes to get it all down.

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

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Sophia Green
Sophia Green

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Sophia Green
Sophia Green

Hi cutie, Could you hit me up on--- RichFlirts.C'om---A dating club for successful, beautiful people.I am a smart&pretty gal. seeking a sweet man.pls Check out my username myshine,serious...

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

Hi cutie, Could you hit me up on--- RichFlirts.C'om---A dating club for successful, beautiful people.I am a smart&pretty gal. seeking a sweet man.pls Check out my username myshine,serious...

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

Hi cutie, Could you hit me up on--- RichFlirts.C'om---A dating club for successful, beautiful people.I am a smart&pretty gal. seeking a sweet man.pls Check out my username myshine,serious...

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

Hi cutie, Could you hit me up on--- RichFlirts.C'om---A dating club for successful, beautiful people.I am a smart&pretty gal. seeking a sweet man.pls Check out my username myshine,serious...

phoenixxx85
phoenixxx85

Even though the laws pertaining to this may be considered "out dated" by many it's still the law so by breaking the law there are consequences. She knew what she was doing i.e. the hard drive, the user name and I really wish everyone would stop calling her "the victim" for this. She could have settled out of court but *she* chose to pursue hearing after hearing in a Federal court with a jury of her peers *three* times to only be found guilty each time. Waste of our tax dollars is all it is.

http://blogs.citypages.com/blo...

Jae King
Jae King

She didn't uproaded the music and people treats her as a criminal.She acturly payed 99c which means she is not the person who takes the money out of musicans because she was just listening to those musics, but the court want's to punish her and torture her familiy.Funny thing is no one knows the difference between sharing,uproading,downloading and crime.No one tries to find out the person who asked her for the money at the first time.

Mark Gisleson
Mark Gisleson

I lost a hard drive Monday. On it there was more downloaded music than Thomas-Rasset has listened to in her entire life. Thank god my other four hard drives are doing fine. I've blogged endlessly about file sharing but because I owe the IRS money and because I have zero savings or reliable income, the recording industry ignores me. What kind of crime can only be committed if you have money? What kind of laws have the recording industry bribed Congress into passing?

In California, auto accidents are capped because it's insane to make an average Chevy-driving motorist pay six figures for rear-ending a Ferrari. A higher court needs to throw this judgment into the trash where it belongs.

Dan Haugen
Dan Haugen

I have very little sympathy for anyone involved here. The record industry's strategy of suing listeners was stupid, our copyright laws clearly don't reflect anything close to reality anymore, and Thomas-Rasset's story doesn't add up either -- the hard drive? the screen name?

It's wise for musicians and record labels to make their music affordable and accessible to fans, but if they choose not to, I've never understand how that becomes a license to steal. If you don't like the way a company does business, just don't buy their products. There's plenty of music to listen to that's put out by honest, hard-working labels/musicians who are worthy of your money. Speaking of which, I just paid $9.99 for the new Sims/Lazerbeak album...

And even if you don't have money to spend, there's plenty of free and legal music out there, too. Daytrotter. Pandora. Slacker. Web radio streams like The Current. Bandcamp. SoundCloud. YouTube. Promo mp3s on every record label website/blog. I've yet to hear/read a convincing ethical argument for why file-sharing of this type is morally acceptable. I'd love to hear one -- it'd probably end up saving me a good chunk of money.

Who cares?
Who cares?

You have financial problems, but you have four hard drives and Internet access? Maybe if your priorities weren't so messed up somebody would hire you?

Indie
Indie

As an independent songwriter and artist let me say, THANK YOU!

Chad Thomas-Rasset
Chad Thomas-Rasset

Her story only doesn't make sense to you because you don't know the whole story, like so many others, I play games online and you would be AMAZED how many people I've seen with the name tereastarr or some variation thereof that I KNOW aren't my wife lol The only thing needed to know is that our government needs to wake up and step in to stop this sort of extortion. The mob couldn't do it legally, why can the RIAA? Ridiculous, and the outcome in the end will justify the means :D

ShadowRunner
ShadowRunner

Kind sir, file-sharing cant be theft because nothing is missing.That like saying if my neighbour liked my picnic table and went home and built one just like it that means he stole my table. see how dumb that sounds? I don't have singer A's song, I have 5 megs of ones and Zeros that with the aid of various devices and or software makes a replica of singer A's song. see nothing is stolen, the CD is still sitting on the shelf at the record store. eeerrr I mean bestbuy

guest
guest

Moral is a concept. Downloading or acessing music, in the case, without permission is not stealing. When u steal something from someone, someone loses that object. Copy and access is not stealing. And its not a debt either. Since, when sometinh is digitalized the owner loses control forever, so his is not the owner anymore. The real owner.

In a REAL democracy (not the fake one US make us to think HE represents) people has ALL THE RIGHT, the NATURAL right (a right tha cant be overpassed by humans laws) to CHOOSE what they can acess. If they choose to acess the pay restricted one, they do. They gain quality and the sure they will compensate the capital to maintain the future productions. If they choose the free one they do, they have the natural right to do, at least to "test" the quality of the material, if they dont know, case if they like they could choose the pay one and more quality. In the REAL democracy people gas this rights to choose whatever they want to fill their necessities and expectations. Why ? BECAUSE in a REAL democracy (made from people, by the people, for the people - everyone, no only the few reach one) they are NOT HOSTAGES of the "rights" of the reach few people, of the capital people, money people.

THIS legal situation, to criminalize people for acess of "forbiden" material is LIKE EVERYONE is a HOSTAGE of "rights" a FEW rich people given themselves (because we STILL leave ia n FEUDALISM era, that the LORDIES RUN the king! WHO made this laws and ideologies ? THE RICH PEOPLE! That RUNS the capitalism governaments! DEMOCRACY THIS ? USA WILL ONLY BE A DEMOCRACY WHEN THE RULES, THE LAW COULD BE MADE BY DE PEOPLE! ALL of their 280millions of populations could MADE their laws! NOT NOW, that the congress man are voted to WORKR FOR THE RICH, that are lobbing$ their pockets to made THEIR laws! Its a FARSE).

Jae King
Jae King

There are peoples who takes the money out of downloaders and it is wrong becasue they shuld punish the people who puts those musics in the internet.Low is for the week peoples it is not alowed make 'example'.Ancient kings used to use this system and gave a fear to the citizens.Does your heart tells you it is wright judgement?Then I've got nothing to say.

Another Poor Musician
Another Poor Musician

Musician's don't make physical things like tables - they make art which enriches the lives of others through a shared experience. So your analogy only serves to make you sound more uninformed.

Jag_freemind
Jag_freemind

In your free-access-to-all-world, there would be nothing worth accessing because nobody could afford to buy food, shelter or clothing if they spent their time making digitized works.

I once asked a musician what he thought of internet music piracy. He said: "It's nothing compared to what recording did to our industry. Before recording, if you wanted to hear music, you needed an actual live musician and he or she would be paid for playing." It's ironic when the RIAA talks about helping musicians.

ShadowRunner
ShadowRunner

How does that take away from my point? a CD is a physical object as is a cassette tape, vinyl record etc etc.... those are things you can steal.

 
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