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Jury awards $1.92m in music-sharing suit

By Steve Karnowski
Associated Press / June 19, 2009
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MINNEAPOLIS - A jury ruling in the only US file-sharing case to go to trial said yesterday that a woman must pay nearly $2 million to recording companies for illegally sharing 24 songs by artist such as Gloria Estefan, Green Day, and Sheryl Crow.

In a replay of an earlier trial, the jury found that Jammie Thomas-Rasset willfully violated copyrights, awarding the companies $80,000 per song, or $1.92 million.

Thomas-Rasset’s second trial actually turned out worse for her. When a different 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.

Outside the courtroom, Thomas-Rasset said she would never be able to pay up. “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.’’

A spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, said the industry remains willing to settle but she refused to name a figure.

This case was the only one of more than 30,000 similar lawsuits to make it to trial. The vast majority of people targeted by the music industry had settled for about $3,500 each. The recording industry has said it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead now working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders.

In testimony this week, Thomas-Rasset denied she shared songs, raising the possibility for the first time in the long-running case that her children or ex-husband might have done it.

The recording companies accused Thomas-Rasset of offering 1,700 songs on Kazaa as of February 2005, before the company became a legal music subscription service following a settlement with entertainment companies. For simplicity’s sake the music industry tried to prove only 24 infringements.

The companies that sued Thomas-Rasset are subsidiaries of all four major recording companies, Warner Music Group Corp., Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, EMI Group PLC, and Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment.

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