Last year in the case of Jammie Thomas, US District Judge Michael Davis said he made a “manifest error of law” when he instructed the jury that simply making songs available for sharing could be considered illegal distribution – even without proof that anyone actually downloaded them. The case was declared a mistrial, eliminating an obscene $222,000 fine for making available 24 copyrighted songs on the KaZaA network, with a second go-around scheduled for 2009.
Turns out, yesterday the single mother of four was found guilty again, only this time she was ordered to pay a mind-boggling $80,000 per song; or $1.9 million in total. Outside the courtroom, Thomas called the penalty “kind of ridiculous,” as she has no means of paying such a large fine. It’s unclear whether or not she plans to appeal the decision, as a spokesperson for the RIAA said record companies are willing to settle out of court for a much smaller amount, and that they’ve been prepared to do so “since day one.”
While Thomas’ case is the first of its kind to make it to trial, there have been more than 35,000 similar cases where the RIAA persuaded people to hand over the cash without recourse to law. Regardless of any possible out of court settlement, many believe that the massive $1.9 million fine might actually end up hurting the RIAA’s anti-piracy campaign more than anything else, as it offers a clear example of how unreasonable and absurd their damages theory for copyright infringement really is.