Jury Finds Jammie Thomas Liable for Infringement – Awards $222,000 To RIAA In First Trial Case
Jammie Thomas was found liable for copyright infringement in the nation’s first file-sharing case to go before a jury. Twelve jurors decided that the Minnesota woman, a single mother of two, must pay $9,250 for each of 24 shared songs that were the subject of the lawsuit, amounting to a whopping $222,000 in penalties.
After the verdict was read, Thomas with bowed head left the courthouse without comment. The jurors also declined to talk to reporters. The verdict, coming after two days of testimony and about five hours of deliberations, was a mixed victory for the RIAA, which has brought more than 20,000 lawsuits in the last four years as part of its zero-tolerance policy against pirating. The jury could have penalized her for up to $3.6 million in damages, or awarded as little as $18,000.
The outcome is likely to embolden the RIAA, which began targeting individuals in lawsuits after concluding the legal system could not keep pace with the ever growing number of file-sharing sites and services. The case, however, did set legal precedents favoring the industry.
In proving liability, the industry did not have to demonstrate that the defendant’s computer had a file-sharing program installed at the time that they inspected her hard drive, nor did they have to show that the defendant was at the keyboard when RIAA investigators accessed Thomas’ share folder. The judge in the case also ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files.
The jury found her liable after receiving evidence her internet protocol address and cable modem identifier were used to share some 1,700 files. According to testimony, Thomas replaced her hard drive weeks after RIAA investigators accessed her share file and discovered 1,702 files. The RIAA sued on just 24 of those files.