US woman fined US$1.92m for illegal file-sharing


19 Jun 2009

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In what has to be the most expensive play-list of all time, which includes the Destiny’s Child hit Bills, Bills, Bills, a jury in Minnesota has found a US woman guilty of illegal file sharing of 24 songs and has fined her a record US$1.92m.

Mother-of-four Jammie Thomas-Rasset stood accused of uploading 1,700 songs to file-sharing site Kazaa before it became a legal service. However, her defence team argued that it could not be proven that it was Thomas-Rasset herself who was sharing the songs, saying that the file sharing could have been done by her children, who were using her computer. 

As Wired has reported, this was not the first court outing for Thomas-Rasset. She had gone to trial two years ago for the same list of 24 songs and was ordered to pay US$222,000. However, the judge declared a mistrial and instead of settling her case out of court, Thomas-Rasset decided to battle it out against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represented the music labels, for a second time.

However, despite being on the losing side this time round, the mother-of-four told Ars Technica that she would not pay what amounts to a US$80,000 fine per song. "Good luck trying to get it from me … it’s like squeezing blood from a turnip,” she was quoted as saying.

The trial of Thomas-Rasset was a landmark case for the RIAA, as hers is the only one of 30,000 similar lawsuits to go to trial. All the other cases have been settled out of court, with the amount paid averaging out at around US$3,500.

A spokesperson for the RIAA told reporters after the trial that the association has been willing to settle the Thomas-Rasset case from day one, and is still willing to do so, although she did not disclose what the payment terms of that settlement might be.

By Jennifer Yau