Is it constitutional to fine someone $1.9 Million for sharing 24 songs? Is it copyright infringement to merely place songs in a shared folder? That and many more questions might be answered in the Jammie Thomas case where she recently said that she would be appealing.
Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes
The Jammie Thomas case has been going on since 2007. Back then, she was originally fined $222,000 for sharing 24 songs. It looked like it would be all over back then, but that was when a new twist in the case happened – Judge Davis threw out the case citing a manifest error in law by instructing the jury that merely making songs available via a shared point is copyright infringement. The RIAA appealed the decision to throw out the case, but the judge denied that appeal – paving the way for the re-trial. Unfortunately, right before the re-trial, it started to look like it would be very possible that she wouldn’t get legal counsel, but she did get new legal council before the case would continue.
Things started to look like it would go her way, but in June, she lost the re-trial and was fined $1.92 million. Serious questions were raised by many over whether or not that fine is unconstitutional as there seems to be a huge discrepancy between the fine itself and actual damage it caused. It is true that one can go to iTunes and pay $24 for the same number of songs. Many argue that the fine is grossly excessive. Not only this, but Richard Marx, an artist whose music appeared in the lawsuit, said that Jammie Thomas “got a raw deal”.
The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has said that they are willing to settle the case, but there’s new details that have emerged that says that the Jammie Thomas case will continue it’s long, now close to 3 year saga. CNet is reporting that Jammie Thomas is appealing the ruling of the re-trial. There’s citation of what many legal experts have figured about the case, that the appeal is based on the argument that the fine is excessive and unconstitutional.
“She’s not interested in settling,” attorney Joe Sibley said in a brief phone interview with CNet. “She wants to take the issue up on appeal on the constitutionality of the damages. That’s one of the main arguments–that the damages are disproportionate to any actual harm.”
The RIAA seems to be trying to dump any and every bit of blame onto Thomas though.
“The defendant can, of course, exercise her legal rights,” said Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman. “But what’s increasingly clear, now more than ever, is that she is the one responsible for needlessly prolonging this case and refusing to accept any responsibility for the illegal activity that two juries decisively found her liable for. From day one, we’ve been fair and reasonable in exercising our rights and attempting to resolve this case.”
Further in the report, there was comments by Thomas’ lawyers that the RIAA did contact her to settle the case, but wouldn’t offer any dollar values. During the trial where she was originally fine $222,000, apparently the RIAA offered to settle the case for $25,000.
It’s unclear on what other grounds Thomas is appealing the case, but one thing is certain, the case will be continuing and addressing the constitutionality of the latest fine. It will be interesting to see where this goes from here.