Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found guilty of willful copyright infringement on Thursday in a Minneapolis federal court and must pay the recording industry $1.92 million.
In a surprise decision, the jury imposed damages against Thomas-Rasset, who was originally accused of sharing more than 1,700 songs, at a whopping $80,000 for each of the 24 songs she was ultimately found guilty of illegally sharing.
In 2007, the Recording Industry Association of America claimed in a lawsuit that Thomas-Rasset pilfered 1,700 songs. The RIAA eventually culled that number down to a representative sample of 24.
Thomas-Rasset lost a previous trial in October 2007 when a jury rendered a $222,000 verdict against the Minnesota native. U.S. District Judge Michael David threw out the decision after acknowledging he erred when giving his jury instructions.
According to Ars Technica reporter Nate Anderson, Thomas-Rasset gasped when the dollar amount was read in court.
For the four largest recording companies, the jury's decision is an affirmation of the legality of the industry's copyright claims.
"We appreciate the jury's service and that they take this issue as seriously as we do," said Cara Duckworth, an RIAA spokeswoman. "We are pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable. Since day 1, we have been willing to settle the case and remain willing to do so."
As much as we've been in favor of a clampdown on online piracy in all its permutations, and penalties for those who enable it, this is a hollow victory. Regardless of what the RIAA may believe, the outcome of this case will not act as a deterrent, but instead will be taken by most pirates as a classic won't-happen-to-me scenario akin to being struck by lightning or getting a rare disease. From the outset, the industry needed to pursue this aggressively and proactively with as many perpetrators as possible, and not hope that a few random cases would make effective examples.
That should be their motto.