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A ruling has come down in the case of the record industry vs. Jammie Thomas — the single mom who took her file-sharing case to court rather than settle, as virtually every other person sued by the RIAA has done — and a jury ruled that she has to pay $222,000 for 24 songs that she downloaded, even though there was no evidence to prove that anyone downloaded them from her. This is so asinine it’s difficult to put into words.

snipshot_e4pt1ajvq9k.jpgI’m not going to argue that what Jammie Thomas did was right in a legal sense, because it clearly wasn’t, as Mike Masnick notes at Techdirt. So the RIAA was obviously within its rights to sue. But $222,000 for 24 songs? That’s just ridiculous. It’s a good thing the case only involved 24 songs, and not the 1,700 or so that Ms. Thomas had on her hard drive initially. That would have left her paying about $15-million for that music collection, if the same formula was used. And what was the formula? Something like X times Y, to the power of Z — where X is the lack of a sustainable business model, Y is an aggravated response to a non-existent threat, and Z is the inability to differentiate between customers and thieves.

I don’t know about the geniuses who run the RIAA, but if I was one of the guys in Journey or Aerosmith or Green Day or any of the other bands that Ms. Thomas downloaded and listened to regularly, I would call her up right now and offer to pay her court costs. Lawyer Ray Beckerman at Recording Industry vs. The People calls it “one of the most irrational things I have ever seen in my life in the law” (hat tip to John Paczkowski at All Things D for the link).

Further reading:

Check out these links for more thoughts on the verdict:



Jammie Thomas is appealing the verdict and there is a website set up for donations at Wired’s Threat Level blog also has an interview with one of the jurors in the case, who more or less says that her defence was unbelievable and that the damages were so high because the jury wanted to “send a message.”

Comments (7)

  1. Ben wrote::

    RIAA sucks.

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 7:17 am #
  2. Dempsey wrote::

    I followed the ArsTech coverage and as it unfolded I was surprised Thomas’ lawyers didn’t encourage her to settle. Did they not know about the consistent login issue? That’s damning, especially considering the jury probably didn’t have one P2P network user.

    Well, my $0.02

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 11:10 am #
  3. Stu wrote::

    Exactly why would these bands thank her for stealing their music, much less pay her?

    P.S. Good job in that Globe and Mail writeup of downplaying her piracy, and focusing on completely irrelevant facts like her marital status, her income, and anything else that might make the reader pull out a crying towel. Seriously, is that the kind of thing the Globe and Mail teaches their writers?

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 11:59 am #
  4. Mathew wrote::

    Thanks, Stu. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 12:02 pm #
  5. ID wrote::

    so where’s the obligatory webpage with a link to paypal so the p2p community can donate a buck or two? Didn’t it work for that bunny, whose owners were going to raise x$ or eat it?

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 1:05 pm #
  6. May C wrote::

    I am getting more and more annoyed at the music industry for its insatiable greed.

    Although I can understand that it’s not right to steal music, (I prefer being the few dinosaurs out there that buy the physical CDs myself for the artwork and liner notes), but the music and entertainment industry is really getting out of hand.

    I am not terribly happy that dentist and medical offices have to pay a fee to play music CDs at their waiting rooms or offices. And now that’s extending to hairdressers. What’s going to happen in the future? I’m sure that the libraries will be in the list some time in the future, since they are providing the CDs to borrowers, so who’s to stop the borrowers from making a copy? This is getting ridiculous.

    There’s got to be a better way to promote the music so that more people are exposed to it and will pay for the creative work of the artists without having to resort to lawsuits. It looks like the is onto something.

    I for one, only still buy the CDs but really enjoy the online radio for the music exposure and for discovering new artists. But that’s me.

    Friday, October 5, 2007 at 1:39 pm #
  7. Stu, they’d thank her because because very, very few musicians make earn anything from the royalties off their recordings. Even the big acts make far less than you would think. Standard recording contracts require that the artist only makes money after every red cent the label ever spent to make the recording is reimbursed to the labels out of the royalties. Artists these days make all their money from merchandising and touring, revenue streams that benefit from file sharing because it is incredibly difficult for new or smaller acts to find an audience these days, thanks to pay-for-play on the radio.

    Monday, October 8, 2007 at 11:53 am #