A court ruling today finalised the damages that a Minnesotan woman will have to pay for distributing a handful of songs using P2P file sharing platform Kazaa. You know a file sharing trial has gone on for a long time when the software used to perpetrate the sharing isn’t in operation any more.
The trial began in 2007, with Jamie Thomas-Rasset being accused of distributing over 1,700 music files using Kazaa, though the record companies (including SONY, Arista Records, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings, Capitol Records and Warner Bros) only went after her for a specific few; 24 in total. In the initial hearing, Thomas was ordered to pay just over $9,000 per song, though this result was later appealed.
This led to a second trial, in which Thomas was again found guilty, with damages calculations becoming even more ridiculous. The jury that time awarded the record labels a judgement of $80,000 per song. When Thomas took this ruling to the federal court, they declared it “monstrous” and dropped the overall damages to $54,000. Further trials and appeals saw the number jump up and down, before this final ruling yesterday that set it at just under a quarter of a million dollars.
Of course front and centre was an RIAA spokesperson who said: “We are pleased with the appellate court’s decision and look forward to putting this case behind us.”
This case has been ongoing for nearly six years at this point, four years beyond the life of the RIAA’s strategy of suing individuals. Since 2008 it has been working with ISPs to take more indirect action against those that it considers copyright infringers. There’s also been more of a targeting of content holders. File locker websites like MegaUpload were hit with big money laundering and fraud suits, while Filesonic and Wupload were scared into ceasing operation.
The owner of streaming site SurfTheChannel ended up getting four years in jail, despite the fact that his website only linked to copyright protected content.
Hopefully we’ve now seen the back of the sort of lawsuits that wreck the lives of individuals like Miss Thomas. If the commenters on The Guardian’s site are anything to go by, most people feel the same.