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Jammie Thomas Fined $1.92 Million for Sharing 24 Songs

Jammie Thomas Fined $1.92 Million for Sharing 24 Songs

It only took the jury a few hours to deliberate and weigh all the evidence. Jammie Thomas was originally sued for $222,000, but her new fine is now $1.92 Million. Some are already wondering whether or not such a fine is even constitutional.

The Jammie Thomas trial took a shocking turn for the worse. During the short re-trial, a jury found Jammie Thomas liable for wilful copyright infringement for sharing 24 songs and fined her $1.92 Million. This latest verdict is fresh blow to file-sharers within the United States.

This doesn’t mean the end of the road for the trial. Already, the EFF is suggesting that the damages awarded might be considered unconstitutional:

First, the Supreme Court has made it clear that “grossly excessive” punitive damage awards (e.g., $2 million award against BMW for selling a repainted BMW as “new”) violate the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution. In evaluating whether an award “grossly excessive,” courts evaluate three criteria: 1) the degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s actions, 2) the disparity between the harm to the plaintiff and the punitive award, and 3) the similarity or difference between the punitive award and civil penalties authorized or imposed in comparable situations. Does a $1.92 million award for sharing 24 songs cross the line into “grossly excessive”? And do these Due Process limitations apply differently to statutory damages than to punitive damages? These are questions that the court will have to decide if the issue is raised by Ms. Thomas-Rasset’s attorneys.

Second, recent Supreme Court rulings suggest that a jury may not award statutory damages for the express or implicit purpose of deterring other infringers who are not parties in the case before the court. In other words, the award should be aimed at deterring this defendant, not giving the plaintiff a windfall in order to send a message to others who might be tempted to infringe. It’s hard to know without having been in the courtroom, but if the record industry lawyers urged the jury to “send a message” to the millions of other American file-sharers out there, they may have crossed the constitutional line.

For more on the details of these constitutional doctrines, I recommend a recent article by Prof. Pamela Samuelson & Tara Wheatland, Statutory Damages in Copyright Law: A Remedy in Need of Reform (full disclosure: Prof. Samuelson is a member of EFF’s board of directors). For those who want a shorter summary of the debate in podcast form, I recommend Prof. Douglas Lichtman’s IP Colloquim episode entitled Statutory Damages and the Tenenbaum Litigation. While I disagree with some of Prof. Lichtman’s conclusions, his guests do a wonderful job summarizing the relevant cases and concepts.

I assume these arguments will first be submitted to the trial judge in post-trial motions. After all, this judge has already indicated that he found the previous $220,000 award to be “unprecedented and oppressive.”

As we’ve already noted in a previous article:

Already, Jammie Thomas lost her case back in 2007 where she was fined $222,000 for sharing 24 songs on the FastTrack network. Then, in a surprising turn of events, Judge Davis threw out the case because of an error on his part. The main reason for the case being thrown out was because he instructed the jurors that merely placing copyrighted works in a shared point constitutes copyright infringement. Realizing this error, he threw the case out saying that steps to allow distribution does not, in and of itself, constitute copyright infringement. In short, it was a “manifest error in law”. The record labels were not happy about the turn of events. They consequently appealed the mistrial ruling saying that the judge had correctly instructed the jurors in this case and that the trial was legitimate. Unfortunately for the major record labels, the judge denied that appeal – that paved the way to this trial many had expected to go over better than her original $222,000 fine. Unfortunately, it seems that this case has actually taken a turn for the worse this time around. One hopes that the new appeal will work out better.

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Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson is perhaps one of the more well-known file-sharing and technology news writers around. A journalist in the field since 2005, his work has had semi-regular appearances on social news websites and even occasional appearances on major news outlets as well. Drew founded freezenet.ca and still contributes to ZeroPaid. Twitter | Google Plus
Peter
Peter

I just don't get it... same here in Belgium, you get sued for a bit less if you have downloaded music, movies, games... Let's say you get sued for 500000€... But you only get sentenced less (sometimes you wont even go to jail) for killing or beating up old women.... I mean, why do courts not make teh difference between major law infrigments? Don't artist get enough money? Are they bored?

A.W.
A.W.

This is all bad! We all can place opinions, judgements, perceptions of ourselves into this ruling, if you want to call it that.The issue is that people have to understand what is excessive and what should be provided as a "warning." I understood that some ISPs will send out letters to their customers if they are actually using (with proof) a filesharing program, sharing actual copyrighted music/movies. Most likely, she did not even know what is the difference of what is actually copyrighted or what is not.The big piece of this puzzle is what will happen on the layman side of the house. Remember hackers brought down RIAAs site out of spite, such as how some people are downloading songs on the same principle. What may happen is that this will awaken more and more hackers and better improvements to filesharing programs.We can debate back and forth on what is legal and what is not; but seeing the commentary, there seems to be a majority of people that feels that this ruling (if you want to call it that) was very excessive and only more adverse activity will spawn from it.

notbob
notbob

that's hilarious. she could have paid 3000 dollars to settle, but lawyers put dollar signs in her eyes. then, it was 220000 dollars plus a crapload of lawyer bills, now it goes up by a factor of 10. way to go, idiot. did she seriously think that a mother of 4 could fight a corporate entity with unlimited legal resources?

World Anarchy
World Anarchy

Seems like imaginary crimes get the heaviest punishments - so that the public doesn't notice that there is no crime here to begin with.

Mantis41
Mantis41

This is ridiculous, when we were kids we were all recording songs from the radio, dubbing each others tapes, dubbing VCRs. We were told back then that it wasn't strictly legal but as long as no one was profiteering from it then the crime was minor. So what, the technology has changed but the pretence hasn't. I wish these fat greedy pigs would get over themselves and move on.

D.AN
D.AN

It is probable that the jury members were all1. Bribed by RIAA via money or other means 2. Spiteful and wanted to make the defendant some sort of example 3. Already biased against P2P or pro-copyright 4. Ignorant of other known rulings and tricked 5. Really stupid/gullible/naive with regards to current technology i.e. the negative of tech-savvy 6. 40+ years old 7. Like mal greenborg

VAMPYRE BLADE
VAMPYRE BLADE

Most of you wont agree with me, but sounds like the jury was bribed, the stupidity of that verdict is unbelievable.

Jason
Jason

I thought that steps to allow distribution does not, in and of itself, constitute copyright infringement so why on earth why she found guilty and fined!!!!!

deshman
deshman

* Eighth Amendment – Prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

jammieswife
jammieswife

This Is horrible!!!!!!! What next life is prison? They need to just get a life and leave people alone who just want to share what they have with others!!!!!!!!!!

Ralphie
Ralphie

They're not allowed to take her meager household possessions or leave her with no income to live on.

zippar
zippar

What are they going to do when she can't pay? Take everything she owns and kick her out on the streets? Put her in jail?

starwhite
starwhite

WOW This is totally insane! As much as I've DL & UL I am feeling paranoid, I'd probably get a firing squad!

Phoenix
Phoenix

loool if she were to commit a murder she would've been fined for less than that !

Uncle Nasty Fingers
Uncle Nasty Fingers

This was done to make an "example" of her, plain and simple. Judge, Jury, Prosecutor and whoever else participated in this injustice can kiss my ass. They were coerced into this decision. The United Corporations of America is out of control. Maybe it's time people stopped abiding by ridiculous unfair "laws" and take our damned country back from these criminals

adam
adam

too much of a fine i mean $500 would be just and right to make her learn a lesson but $1.2 million screw dat

Signa
Signa

Get me on that fucking jury. It would be hung heavier than Ron Jeremy.

StormNinja
StormNinja

It is no more a matter of theft than recording a song off an FM Stereo Radio.

Jorge's Mom
Jorge's Mom

Check out what our local paper had to say here in Minnesota.

Sebastian Komor
Sebastian Komor

I agree this is over the top, but as a musician myself sharing damages bands, artists and labels, so even this is completely irrational the bigger sharks like the actual site should be hit and hit hard for so blatantly ignoring the copyright laws. It is theft no matter how you look at it. Still hope for hers sake that a more realistic approach will be taken into her case, a warning maybe?

soulxtc
soulxtc

I love it. This is sure to make people realize how retarded the RIAA really is. It's tantamount to ordering life in prison for pot possession and will hopefully make people realize that copyright laws drafted nearly a decade ago are no longer applicable to a digital world.Bravo RIAA for making yourself look once again like the big, greedy, smelly, asshole you really are.$80,000 per song is just retarded, especially when she didn't profit from it. Copyright laws were made to punish people who try and disseminate copyrighted material in order to make money from it.It'll be found unconstitutional in 5...4...3...2...1.......

Dante.Xaiver
Dante.Xaiver

How is this justice a single mother of two struggling to survive on her small earning? I feel for the poor woman lets download and upload in her name

1cooldude
1cooldude

I think some judges are corrupt and accept bribes. As much as one tries to understand that logic of the case, I do not understand how in one instance a fine is imposed at $ xx and at other it is eight times the original fine.

Mr.
Mr.

Apparently there's less punishment for stealing a CD from a store than making a copy. *sighs*

Mike
Mike

Just for accuracy's sake, it was a jury, not the judge, that deliberated on the facts and determined the award.

Jorge
Jorge

My mom was just talking about this today.

D.AN
D.AN

Could you have expected this to have transpired? No entity has any right to do any of this, but too many ignorant people just continue to be so as well as arrogant when it comes to regarding the use of current technology, interfering with global advancements.They apparently believe they are doing things that they perceive to be good, but this is the exact opposite when there is no knowledge of wisdom. They think that the duplication of networked electronic bit-combinations is as horrible as the death of a human.They also have unlimited legal resources because they 'ARE' a legal resource.No, they are a class of defective human descendants at its finest.

chauncy
chauncy

file for bankruptcy probly

D.AN
D.AN

"I agree this is over the top, but as a musician myself sharing damages bands, artists and labels,"But you can only imagine, speculate, or be convinced that such a over-simplistic view can be true."so even this is completely irrational the bigger sharks like the actual site should be hit and hit hard for so blatantly ignoring the copyright laws."The damned RIAA is a real shark. Current copyright laws are too negatively impacting to citizens, let alone being an ambiguous and illogical mess. In case you haven't been informed, people would deliberately download music out of spite, not because they profit from it."It is theft no matter how you look at it."No, it is theft seen by you no matter how you look at it. It is obvious you are projecting yourself and your views according to your very first sentence.Read mountain_rage's response as it covers what I intend to say about real theft."Still hope for hers sake that a more realistic approach will be taken into her case, a warning maybe?"Those bastards could have, but would rather sue for money. Their acceptance of the $1.92M ruling is instant proof of this fact.I will wish that you will come to understand more about these conflicts in the near future, seeing as you are not as arrogant as so many others.

mountain_rage
mountain_rage

Theft only occurs when you physically remove property from ones possession, leaving them with a loss of property. File sharing is simply the removal of a government imposed right, leaving you with the property still in hand. In the end the government has monopolized ideas, music and culture and has allowed over the top enforcement on the monopoly. No justification can be made for this kind of punishment to the people of a country. For your sake I hope you get enlightened about how current copyright laws rob society, I also hope for the sake of the citizens of the United States that this ruling be thrown out as unconstitutional.

notbob
notbob

wow, way to pull a bunch of gibberish out of your ass.part 1. she shared files. whether or not she knew the risks, she did it.part 2. she didn't accept responsibility for that action, and decided to "fight" it, with no affirmative evidence to prove her case. in a civil trial, that's called "suicide"part 3. after getting her ass handed to her once, she decided to try it again, and the RIAA decided to lay the smackdown on her. their mission is accomplished, lots of publicity for the "dangers of p2p" to scare away the sheep.part 4. the tech media moans about how unfair it is, but jammie thomas is the one who decided to get slaughtered by goliath in the first place. nobody forced her to take her baby carriage up against a steamroller. she did that herself

mal greenborg
mal greenborg

The person who makes the thing gets to enjoy the fruits of their labors. That's a natural law, not man-made.Doing away with copyright does nothing but help big companies, who can feed off of 'user generated content' without having to compensate anyone for their labor.The copyright laws help to protect the little guy from being exploited by big internet companies.

D.AN
D.AN

Although, of course, I am using the false assumption that you understand any of what I write. It is most likely you do not.

D.AN
D.AN

It's quite humorous that you are projecting yourself to assume an impression of me.No matter what you say, you know that you are arrogant. As a consequence you will not go against your own ideals, whether it is obvious that they are true or false.All that I will say to you is that you have no real ideals, but just ungrounded morals that have been assimilated into you. No critical thinking whatsoever, but you insist this your fallacy to be fact.

mountain_rage
mountain_rage

She is a victim of a law that has excessive penalties and was not designed around public infringement. No one can say the verdict is justified, she is a victim of a antiquated law. You should check the definition it fits her case very well http://www.answers.com/victim.She shared copyrighted works she didn't have the right to share, in the current mindset of some she should be penalized. That is fine, she did something and now she has to face the consequences. Very few people would care about that statement should the damages been reasonable. But the consequences are nonsensical, no one would of expected such a harmful verdict, and it in no way represents the actual damages. She had no reason to expect such an over the top outcome, and in the end is a victim of the system.Personally I disagree with the entire state of copyright laws, and don't think the onus of protecting copyright should lie with citizens. If you hold a copyright it should be your own duty to protect it, should it make its way in the public than its your loss not the public's. But that has little to do with my above statement, the ruling is ridiculous whether you agree with copyright laws or not.

notbob
notbob

how exactly is she a victim? she shared files, she decided to listen to bad counsel and take it to trial. everything she did was in her own control. she picked a fight with a mountain and got hit with an avalanche. in the end, she'll declare bankruptcy and that will be the end of it, but for the time being, she's enjoying the attentiona victim is someone who is wrongly persecuted or attacked. she started this fight. she is not a victim (at least other than a victim of her own stupidity/vanity/hubris)

mountain_rage
mountain_rage

Oops double negative, its not logical for as system to work that way.

mountain_rage
mountain_rage

Under the wost circumstances of the case I highly doubt anyone expected her to get a fine any higher than $12 000. Sure that is a lot more than the original settlement, but its a reasonable risk. The ruling was ridiculous, and unreasonable. Going back to such things as jaywalking, my point was that if you got a fine that you felt was overly large and fought it, you would not expect it to be justified to have a fine 666 times larger, its not illogical for a system to work that way. The courts failed in their duty, Jamie Thomas is a victim of the system, and you lack the common sense to see that.

notbob
notbob

if i got caught jaywalking (or filesharing) i'd take my lumps and move on. why would i fight it if i know i am guilty? do i share files? hell yes! do i have any illusions that it's legal or wholesome? no!like speeding on the highway, you know it's wrong but you do it until you get caught. then you pay your fine and grumble. there are people who look for loopholes and hire lawyers to weasel out of their tickets, but in the end, they end up paying 2000 bucks for a 100 dollar ticket. that's what jammie thomas did, and i don't feel bad for her that her ploy to weasel out of her ticket failed.

mountain_rage
mountain_rage

Remind me not to care when you get a $3000 fine for jaywalking, fight it and end up with a $2 000 000.

D.AN
D.AN

Oh? So that's why you have such poor reading comprehension!

mal greenborg
mal greenborg

No, don't misunderstand me, I was just curious what country you were from. Your diction reads more like another language.

D.AN
D.AN

You should learn how to use commas before criticizing my use of proper English grammar.Or maybe you could look up the dictionary from time to time.Perhaps your linguistic intelligence suffers due to too many mental blockades.

mal greenborg
mal greenborg

Maybe someone else could duck in and explain it to me? There are a lot of posts I'd love to respond to but I'm having trouble with your English perhaps?

D.AN
D.AN

To you that is. It's your problem, not mine.

D.AN
D.AN

"The person who makes the thing gets to enjoy the fruits of their labors. That’s a natural law, not man-made."It is not a law and it is in fact man-made.It quite literally regards food. That is, one should always enjoy the food that one grows. It is not metaphoric or symbolic in any manner.If it did not refer to food exclusively and regarded general things, it becomes inaccurate as people can make things that they do not get to enjoy for themselves. You are most likely referring general things, and to monetary gain as the 'fruit'."Doing away with copyright does nothing but help big companies, who can feed off of ‘user generated content’ without having to compensate anyone for their labor."That first thing makes no sense and the second thing you wrote is called plagiarism, idiot."The copyright laws help to protect the little guy from being exploited by big internet companies."First half debated and proven false several times. The second half is a deliberate lie: ISPs do no such thing and Dot-Com companies just do their business mainly online; neither would have any relation to "the little guy", so don't blindly point the finger to companies who embrace the Internet i.e. Internet companies.



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