- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — The recording industry won a key fight yesterday against illegal music downloading when a federal jury found a Minnesota woman shared copyrighted music online and levied $222,000 in damages against her.

The jury ordered Jammie Thomas, 30, to pay the six record companies that sued her $9,250 for each of 24 songs that they focused on in the case. They had accused her of sharing 1,702 songs online in violation of their copyrights.

Miss Thomas and her attorney, Brian Toder, declined comment as they left the courthouse. Jurors also left without commenting.

“This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not OK,” said Richard Gabriel, the lead attorney for the music companies.

In the first such lawsuit to go to trial, the record companies accused Miss Thomas of downloading the songs without permission and offering them online through a Kazaa file-sharing account. Miss Thomas denied wrongdoing and testified that she didn’t have a Kazaa account.

Record companies have filed about 26,000 lawsuits since 2003 over file sharing, which has hurt sales because it allows people to get music for free instead of paying for recordings in stores. Many other defendants have settled by paying the companies a few thousand dollars.

The RIAA says the lawsuits have mitigated illegal sharing, even though music file sharing is rising overall. The group says the number of households that have used file-sharing programs to download music has risen from 6.9 million monthly in April 2003, before the lawsuits began, to 7.8 million in March 2007.

During the three-day trial, the record companies presented evidence they said showed the copyrighted songs were offered by a Kazaa user under the name “tereastarr.” Their witnesses, including officials from an Internet provider and a security firm, testified that the Internet address used by “tereastarr” belonged to Miss Thomas.

Mr. Toder said in his closing that the companies never proved that “Jammie Thomas, a human being, got on her keyboard and sent out these things.”

“We don’t know what happened,” Mr. Toder told jurors. “All we know is that Jammie Thomas didn’t do this.”

Mr. Gabriel called that defense “misdirection, red herrings, smoke and mirrors.”

He told jurors that a verdict against Miss Thomas would send a message to other illegal downloaders.

“I only ask that you consider that the need for deterrence here is great,” he said.

Copyright law sets a damage range of $750 to $30,000 per infringement, or up to $150,000 if the violation was “willful.” Jurors ruled that Miss Thomas’ infringement was willful but awarded damages of $9,250 per song; Mr. Gabriel said they did not explain to attorneys afterward how they reached that amount.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide