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Supreme court denies appeal of woman who owes RIAA $222,000

Supreme court denies appeal of woman who owes RIAA $222,000


Copyright case finally concludes with woman owing music labels a bundle

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The seven-year copyright battle waged by Jammie Thomas-Rasset against the largest music recording companies has finally come to an end. And for Thomas-Rasset, the story ends nearly exactly where it began: with her owing the top record labels $222,000. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal from the Minnesota woman who was accused in a 2006 copyright lawsuit of illegally sharing 24 songs online, according to a report by The Associated Press. The case received wide attention among music fans because it initially appeared that the music industry was setting itself up for a public-relations Waterloo.

When the case was brought, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade group representing the top labels were preparing to end years of litigation against file sharers. Thomas-Rasset was the first person to refuse to settle with the RIAA and argue her case before a jury. The cost of settling back then? $3,500. On Monday, Thomas-Rasset and her lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

Critics of the RIAA predicted Thomas-Rasset would become the Joan of Arc for file sharing

An RIAA spokeswoman said in a statement: "We appreciate the Court’s decision and are pleased that the legal case is finally over. We've been willing to settle this case from day one and remain willing to do so."

Thomas-Rasset went before two different juries and in each case they hammered her. In her first trial, the jury ordered her to pay the labels $222,000. That decision was tossed by the judge, and the case was retried. In the second trial, the jury ordered Thomas-Rasset to pay $1.9 million. The district judge in the case called the award "monstrous," and reduced the award. But the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's reduction and returned the award to the original $222,000.

Critics of the RIAA predicted Thomas-Rasset would become the Joan of Arc for file sharing and bring a lot of bad press to the labels. But the RIAA ended the litigation campaign against its customers in December 2008. Meanwhile, popular legal music sites, such as Spotify and Pandora, began to offer convenience at a low price and file sharing is now on the wane. Still, the RIAA is sensitive about how it looks if they impoverish a woman of modest means. Look for them to ask her for far less than the $222,000.

Update 4:29 p.m. ET: Kiwi Camara, one of Thomas-Rasset's attorneys replied to an interview request. "We are disappointed in the outcome," Camara wrote. "The issue will next come before the Supreme Court in the [Joel] Tenenbaum case, which is currently pending in the First Circuit." Tenenbaum was the second person to challenge RIAA copyright claims in court. The Supreme Court denied an earlier request by Tenenbaum to hear his case but he may get a second chance to go before the court depending on how the First Circuit decides.