Commentary

File-Sharer Defendant, RIAA Gear Up For Third Trial

Jammie Thomas-Rasset and the Recording Industry Association of America appear to be headed back to court this October for yet another trial -- the third so far -- stemming from her having shared music on Kazaa.

Already, two separate juries have found Thomas-Rasset liable for file-sharing. In 2007, a jury in Minnesota ordered her to pay $220,000 for sharing 24 tracks. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis subsequently set aside that verdict, because he incorrectly instructed the jury that simply making tracks available on a peer-to-peer site could violate the record companies' copyright.

Davis ordered a new trial, but that was even more disastrous than the first. The second jury also found her liable, and this time ordered her to pay $1.92 million.

Last year, Davis set aside that award as "monstrous and shocking" and slashed damages to $54,000 (three times the minimum damages of $750 per track).

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The RIAA offered to settle for $25,000, but Thomas refused. Her lawyer says that any damages greater than around $1 a song -- the cost of a track online -- are unconstitutional because they have no relationship to the actual damages in the case.

In what was obviously a last-ditch attempt to avoid another trial, Davis ordered Thomas-Rasset and the RIAA to meet with a mediator. But earlier this week, they filed a joint motion stating that they were unable to come to an agreement, legal blogger Ben Sheffner reported. This next round in court will focus solely on damages.

Meanwhile another file-sharing defendant, Joel Tenenbaum, still awaits word on his motion to slash a $675,000 verdict entered against him.

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