Jammie Thomas-Rasset infringed, says jury; fined $80,000 / song
A Minnesota jury has returned its verdict in the Capitol Records vs. Thomas-Rasset retrial, and they found for the plaintiffs. In addition, the group of seven women and five men levied damages of $1,920,000 -- that is, $80,000 for each of the 24 songs admitted into evidence -- against the 32-year-old mother of four.
Early reports from the courtroom indicate that, in the words of Thomas-Rasset lawyer Kiwi Camara, jury members "were angry" and "didn't believe" the defendant, the only witness presented by her legal team. Camara & Sibley took the case on pro bono, and statements indicate that they plan to stick with Ms. Thomas-Rasset and appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court.
For her part, Ms. Thomas-Rasset thanked the jury and said she doesn't hold the verdict against them, but she was not sanguine about the damages. "Good luck," one on-scene Twitterer quotes her as saying. "You can't squeeze blood from a turnip."
At Recording Industry vs The People, where Marc Bourgeois has been providing on-scene reportage all week, site proprietor Ray Beckerman steps in with his initial analysis. He sees the size of the jury award as possibly a good thing. "Well, I guess there is going to be a third trial," he wrote Thursday afternoon. "I hope that during the next trial the technical evidence will be challenged, that the issue of recoverability of statutory damages will be tested, and that the plaintiffs will be required to prove (a) dissemination of copies (b) to the public, (c) by a sale or other transfer of ownership, or by lease, rental, or lending, before being deemed to have shown an infringement of the distribution right. The nonsensical exorbitancy of the verdict actually enhances the constitutionality argument, demonstrating how open ended the statute is if the RIAA's wild eyed interpretation of it is allowed to survive."
Perhaps the jury was responding to another use of "millions" in the courtroom on Thursday. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, plaintiff's attorney Tim Reynolds claimed that Ms. Thomas-Rasset was practically flooding the planet with copies of those 24 songs, saying she provided the 24 files to "millions" of fellow KaZaA users.
However, the idea that "making available" those files necessarily indicates that they were downloaded (provided) -- let alone downloaded by "millions" -- could provide some traction for appeal. Joe Campos at DigitalMediaLawyer.com has a good overview of that conflicted concept, and has said (writing before the retrial and verdict) that perhaps the best thing for the law and the digital marketplace alike would be a Supreme Court review of a case involving the concept.