Jammie Thomas file-sharing fines reduced to a sliver

Jammie Thomas-Rasset will no longer have to pay $1.9 million for illegally downloading and distributing 24 songs over the Internet.

Instead, Thomas-Rasset’s fine was reduced to $54,000, or $2,250 per song, Copyrights and Campaigns reports. The U.S. District Court in Minnesota ruled that the recording industry’s goal of making an example of Thomas-Rasset to deter others from illegal file sharing didn’t justify the original fine.

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Judge Michael Davis wrote that a $1.9 million verdict was “simply shocking”¬†despite the difficulty of calculating actual damages caused by Thomas-Rasset, the high costs of piracy in general, the resources needed to track down file sharers, and the need to deter other individuals from file sharing.

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“No matter how unremorseful Thomas-Rasset may be, assessing a $2 million award against an individual consumer for use of Kazaa is unjust,” Davis wrote. “Even the Plaintiffs admit that Thomas-Rasset is unlikely to ever be able to pay such an award.”

Still, Thomas-Rasset isn’t getting off with the bare minimum of $750 per song. Instead, the court decided on three times that amount — courts often award “treble damages,” or triple, for willful or damaging behavior — because Thomas-Rasset willfully downloaded songs, and their redistribution may have caused additional damage.

The Recording Industry Association of America has seven days to accept the court’s decision or schedule a new trial for damages. The RIAA wouldn’t comment to CNet.

As Copyrights and Campaigns notes, this decision should cause alarm for the entertainment industry as it pursues other copyright cases. This week, the U.S. Department of Justice supported a jury decision of a $675,000 fine in the Joel Tenenbaum case. It’s very possible that the ruling in Thomas-Rasset’s case could influence a lower fine for Tenenbaum.

It’s tempting, as always, to blame the RIAA for seeking such hefty fines on individuals. But keep in mind that a jury of the defendants’ peers assign these fines in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars. I guess we love seeing the little guy suffer.

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