A replay of the nation's only file-sharing case to go to trial has ended with the same result — a Minnesota woman was found to have violated music copyrights and must pay huge damages to the recording industry.
A federal jury ruled Thursday that Jammie Thomas-Rasset willfully violated the copyrights on 24 songs, and awarded recording companies $1.92 million, or $80,000 per song.
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.
Thomas-Rasset sat glumly with her chin in hand as she heard the jury's finding of willful infringement, which increased the potential penalty. She raised her eyebrows in surprise when the jury's penalty of $80,000 per song was read.
Outside the courtroom, she called the $1.92 million figure "kind of ridiculous" but expressed resignation over the decision.
"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."
Her attorney, Kiwi Camara, said he was surprised by the size of the judgment. He said it suggested that jurors didn't believe Thomas-Rasset's denials of illegal file-sharing, and that they were angry with her.
Camara said he and his client hadn't decided whether to appeal or pursue the Recording Industry Association of America's settlement overtures.
Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, said the industry remains willing to settle. She refused to name a figure, but acknowledged Thomas-Rasset had been given the chance to settle for $3,000 to $5,000 earlier in the case.
"Since Day One we have been willing to settle this case and we remain willing to do so," Duckworth said.
In closing arguments earlier Thursday, attorneys for both sides disputed what the evidence showed.
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.
Defense attorney Joe Sibley said the music companies failed to prove allegations that Thomas-Rasset gave away songs by Gloria Estefan, Sheryl Crow, Green Day, Journey and others.
"Only Jammie Thomas's computer was linked to illegal file-sharing on Kazaa," Sibley said. "They couldn't put a face behind the computer."
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.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, who heard the first lawsuit in 2007, ordered up a new trial after deciding he had erred in instructions to the jurors. The first time, he said the companies didn't have to prove anyone downloaded the copyrighted songs she allegedly made available. Davis later concluded the law requires that actual distribution be shown.