Judge Reduces Illicit File-Sharing Fine from $2M to $54k

Dennis Faas's picture

Imagine being fined almost $2 million dollars for illegally downloading two albums' worth of music. Minnesota single mom Jammie Thomas-Rasset couldn't believe such a decision, and neither could a U.S. District court judge, who recently cut the fine down to $54,000.

Original Fine $200K, Upped to $1.92M

Thomas-Rasset's case is a long and prolific one, dating back almost four years.

It was in 2006 that a case was brought against her on behalf of the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), for the illegal downloading of 24 songs. At the conclusion of that trial, Thomas-Rasset, who is a single mother with four children, was told she must pay $200,000 as compensation.

Hefty Fine Explodes at Retrial

A retrial proved devastating for Thomas-Rasset, who in the blink of an eye saw those already precipitous fines climb up to an astronomical $1.92 million -- meaning each song she had downloaded illegally was about to cost her approximately $80,000.

Without a doubt, the case was a head-turner. However, it was not the only lynching attempted by the RIAA, which in recent years has brought over 30,000 lawsuits against individuals it claims have violated copyright law by illegally downloading music, often from sites like Napster or Limewire or via BitTorrent.

A number of these suits have been settled for just a few thousand dollars, depending on the amount of songs acquired, which makes one wonder how it is Thomas-Rasset could face such a unique punishment.

Fine Hardly Practical, Says Mom, Judge

"Whether it's $2 million or $54,000, I'm a mom with four kids and one income and we're not exactly rolling in that kind of dough right now," she recently pleaded. (Source: informationweek.com)

Judge Michael Davis recently agreed with Thomas-Rasset that $2 million was excessive. In reducing the fine, he said "The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music."

Davis acknowledged that the new fine, although dramatically lower than the last one, was by no means a sign that people are free to go about downloading music without paying for it. He described the $54,000 fine as "significant and harsh," adding "this Court has merely reduced that award to the maximum amount that is no longer monstrous and shocking."

True, for a well-paid U.S. District judge that fine probably does seem more reasonable. However, there will be many who feel this new fine, while slightly less shocking, remains a monstrosity.

New Hope for Boston Student

Next up will be the case of a Boston-area student facing fines of $675,000 for downloading a handful more songs than Thomas-Rasset. He hopes her case will lead to new inquiries into the sensibility of his own massive bill. (Source: computerworld.com)

Rate this article: 
No votes yet