Supreme Court Allows Verdict in Recording Industry Case Against Downloader


March 19, 2013 ?? – When Jammie Thomas-Rasset received a letter in 2005 accusing her of downloading and sharing copyrighted music, the lawyer behind the letter offered her two options: settle 5 $ 000 or be sued.

But Thomas-Rasset, of Brainerd, Minn., Said she had never heard of the music download site Kazaa cited in the letter, or the songs the Recording Industry Association of America accused her of sharing. .

Refusing to settle, Thomas-Rasset became the first person to challenge a file-sharing lawsuit brought by the RIAA – that decision to fight resulted in a jury verdict of $ 222,000 against her.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Thomas-Rasset’s verdict. She had applied to the High Court on the grounds that the damages against her were “excessive” and disproportionate to the damage she had caused to the recording industry.

“It’s an empty victory for the recording industry,” Thomas-Rasset told ABC News. “If they want to sue me, they will find out that I have no assets.”

The RIAA, in a statement to ABC News, said: “We appreciate the court’s ruling and are happy that the matter is finally over. We have been prepared to resolve this matter from day one and remain prepared to do so. “

Thomas-Rasset claimed that one of his children was responsible for illegal downloads from his computer. The RIAA said Thomas-Rasset was caught downloading more than 1,700 songs – it took legal action against 24 of them.

The RIAA also said that Thomas-Rasset replaced an old hard drive during its investigation and that after refusing the original $ 5,000 settlement, it offered him another offer to settle $ 25,000, money that would be went to the MusiCares charity. Thomas-Rasset also forwarded this offer.

From 2004 to 2009, the RIAA estimated that approximately 30 billion songs were illegally uploaded to file-sharing networks, costing the recording industry billions. During this time, the industry filed thousands of lawsuits against people who obtained their music without authorization or payment. The majority of those cases were settled for about $ 3,500 each, but two defendants chose to challenge the charges in court.

Besides Thomas-Rasset, who was the first challenger, the other defendant, who is still pursuing his case in court, is former Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum. He currently owes the recording industry $ 675,000, a ruling the Supreme Court also upheld.

Kiwi Camara, a Houston lawyer who represents Thomas-Rasset, told ABC News her fight was never about the money.

“It is neither fair nor legal that an industry can pick up a random defendant and punish him for file sharing, an act committed by millions of Americans,” Camara said.

Camara said the $ 222,000 judgment, which once stood at nearly $ 2 million, was unrelated to what her client did.

“It’s just a made-up number,” Camara said. “The recording industry is making a public demonstration by pursuing this case, trying to show people that they should be afraid.”

Camara said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision, but sees another opening for Thomas-Rasset.

Tenenbaum, which Camara also represents, still has a case in the United States Court of Appeals. A win for Tenenbaum could signal a win for Thomas-Rasset, who said she was not worried about the judgment against her.

“I can’t go back in time and stop this from happening,” she said. “I’m living my life. That’s what it is.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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