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New iPod nano: $149.00. One legal download from iTunes: $.99. Hearing your favorite song: priceless. Well, not quite. How about a cool $83,000 for your favorite ditty? That was the award amount, per song, levied against Jammie Thomas-Rasset of Brainard, Minnesota, when she was found liable for copyright infringement for her illegal downloads of 24 songs shared via the Kazaa file sharing service. Today it was announced that Minnesota federal court judge Michael Davis has cut the award amount granted by a jury to plaintiffs RIAA from $1.92 million to about $54,000.
In his ruling, Judge Davis found the initial award of $1.92 million dollars in favor of the plaintiffs "monstrous and shocking," despite the acknowledged need for deterrence of the illegal downloading and sharing of music.
This is the second incarnation of this case, Capitol v. Thomas. The first attempt ended in a mistrial thanks to an improper jury instruction from the judge. On this second go-round, plaintiffs have seven days to decide whether to accept the award amount, or go back for a third crack at Thomas-Rasset. However, just in case the RIAA was expecting to recoup some of the hefty attorneys fees they have surely dished out pursuing this case, the offending mother of four has said, "as far as I'm concerned, I don't have $50,000 to hand over."
According to reports, the RIAA has launched as many as 35,000 cases against people accused of illegal downloads. Most of these cases settle out of court, but some are making a bit more noise. One is the case of Boston University student, Joel Tenenbaum, as discussed in this blog. Tenenbaum's case is also awaiting a decision by the judge regarding lessening the award of $675,000 for plaintiffs. The judge in that case, Judge Nancy Gertner, may view the reduction here as an opening to minimize the amount levied against Tenenbaum.
The Minnesota mom of four, may have bad judgment regarding the manner of securing her music, but she does have quite pleasantly eclectic musical tastes. Her illegal scores included songs by Aerosmith, Green Day, Janet Jackson and Cheryl Crow. Rock on everyone... just pay first.
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