Judge Slashes Jammie Thomas Fine to $54,000

The case is at least 4 years old now, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Jammie Thomas trial was described as a “first of its kind” trials where a file-sharer was sued for sharing music in the US. Now, a new development has unfolded in this long-running trial which may very likely be seen as a major blow to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

If you are caught sharing music on a P2P file-sharing network, and you go to court and lose, what exactly should the fine be? Citing the minimum and maximum statutory damages doesn’t count, the court needs a specific amount. That’s become the real hitch for the court system for a very long time now. How does one prove an exact dollar amount that fits the crime of non-commercial infringement? The reality is, and that’s been abundantly clear in this case, there is no solid argument to prove that the non-commercial file-sharing causes “x” amount of dollars in damage.

In 2009, Jammie Thomas was fined $1.92 million for sharing 24 songs. The fine was not satisfactory for all parties in the case and Thomas appealed. The question of how much the fine should be has haunted the courts ever since.

Recently, the EFF pointed to the latest ruling in the landmark trial, citing the following in the judge’s ruling:

[A]n award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use is appalling. Such an award is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable. In this particular case, involving a first‒time willful, consumer infringer of limited means who committed illegal song file‒sharing for her own personal use, an award of $2,250 per song, for a total award of $54,000, is the maximum award consistent with due process.

It is unclear if the RIAA will appeal this decision and further drag out this case. Major rights holders are pushing to censor the internet to the detriment of internet and national security instead among other things, so the file-sharing lawsuits have really become an outdated practice – even to the record labels by now given their different (flawed) approach to the internet these days.

So, whether or not the RIAA will cut their losses at this point or vow to fight on remains to be seen.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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