How much would you pay for 24 songs? Jammie Thomas-Rasset is expected to pay $222,000 for two dozen songs that she downloaded through Kazaa, a now-defunct peer-to-peer file sharing service.
Thomas-Rasset is famous in legal circles for being the first defendant to be tried before a jury in the U.S. for unauthorized file-sharing, according to Ars Technica. She asked the Supreme Court for relief against her after her case bounced through three trials and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Monday, the Supreme Court denied her petition for certiorari.
After the first jury found Thomas-Rasset liable for willful copyright infringement in 2007 and awarded $222,000 in damages, the district court granted a new trial on the ground that the jury instructions incorrectly provided that the Copyright Act forbids making sound recordings available for distribution on a peer-to-peer network, regardless of whether there is proof of "actual distribution."
A second jury found Thomas-Rasset liable for willful copyright infringement under a different instruction, and awarded statutory damages of $1,920,000. The district court remitted the award to $54,000, and the companies opted for a new trial on damages. A third jury awarded statutory damages of $1,500,000, but the district court ultimately reduced the verdict because "the maximum amount permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment was $54,000."
The court also enjoined Thomas-Rasset from taking certain actions with respect to copyrighted recordings owned by the recording companies.
The companies appealed, objecting to the district court's ruling on damages, and seeking the original $222,000 judgment. They also asked for a broader injunction barring Thomas-Rasset from making any of their sound recordings available to the public.
Last year, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case with directions to enter a judgment for damages in the amount of $222,000, and to include an injunction that precludes Thomas-Rasset from making any of the 24 recordings available for distribution to the public through an online media distribution system.
Fellow file-sharers have cause for concern now that Thomas-Rasset has exhausted her appeals. Though she tells Ars Technica that she will declare bankruptcy before paying the six-figure damages, Thomas-Rasset might not be able to discharge the debt in bankruptcy.
- March 18 Order List (Supreme Court)
- Don't Stop Believin' in Copyright Infringement Damages (FindLaw's Eighth Circuit Blog)
- Supreme Court Won't Hear Joel Tenenbaum's Music Downloading Case (FindLaw's First Circuit Blog)