Jammie Thomas: Now Fighting against Both RIAA and MPAA

Jammie Thomas – mother (of four) that has been sued by the RIAA for sharing 24 songs, is now struggling to win not only against the trade group claiming to represent the U.S. recording industry but also against the MPAA who’s decided to join RIAA’s appeal.

The notorious Jammie Thomas case (also known as the “file-sharing mom”) started in 2007 when she was found guilty of sharing 24 songs via Kazaa, and was fined $222,000. In 2008 she appealed the verdict and a mistrial was declared; the judge ruled that the fines were “disproportionate to the damages suffered.

In 2009 the case went up again and Thomas lost and had to pay no less than $1,92 million. The following year she filed for a re-trial and in November 2010 a jury found her guilty once more, awarding the RIAA with $1,5 million.

Then the $1,5 million fine reached only $54,000 thanks to Judge Michael Davis who said that the massive damages were “monstrous and shocking”.

“The Court concludes that an award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use is appalling. Such an award is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable,” Judge Davis wrote.

Now the RIAA has filed a brief, hoping that they will reinstate the initial $222,000.

“Neither the first jury’s $9,250-per-work award nor the third jury’s $62,500-per-work award is more substantial than the Constitution allows,” the RIAA concludes.

Judge Davis’ decision that any fine higher than $2,250 per song should require proof of actual damages has also been frowned upon by the RIAA. But according to the group neither the copyright act nor the due process clause requires this.

“Neither its legal analysis nor its factual analysis supports the court’s holding that the relationship between actual and statutory damages renders any award greater than $2,250 per work unconstitutional,” writes the RIAA.
This week the MPAA filed an amicus brief, joining the industry’s group efforts to win the case.

“That ruling improperly would require copyright owners who elect statutory damages to present proof of actual damages. Requiring such proof would significantly alter well-established ground rules for copyright litigation, add substantial practical burdens and unreasonably increase the costs of pursuing such litigation,” the MPAA writes.

The RIAA also argues that Judge Davis was wrong when he ruled that “making a work available” is not part of the distribution right protected by the Copyright Act.

“The District Court erred in rejecting the first jury’s verdict on the mistaken ground that the Copyright Act does not protect the copyright holder’s long-established exclusive right to control the terms on which a work is ‘made available’ to the public,” the RIAA writes.

The MPAA also wrote to the court.

“That right is, in fact, an international copyright norm. The right has particular importance in a digital age where unauthorized third parties routinely make available valuable copyrighted works for instantaneous dissemination to millions of Internet users around the globe.”

What’s the court’s opinion on these claims remains to be seen.