Record Labels To Finally Get Money From A Filesharer

Last night, a jury found Minnesota resident Jammie Thomas guilty of copyright infringement for sharing music via Kazaa; Thomas now has to pay $220,000 in damages to the record labels that sued her. The trial was the first one that had a jury deciding whether or not a person accused by labels was, in fact, guilty of copyright infringement. Thomas can appeal, or the labels can offer her a settlement that’s less than $222,000 and “suggest” that she take it. Over at, Declan McCullagh has a cogent analysis of why the jury found Thomas guilty:

First, the labels were able to match a username and IP address with Thomas; who used the same username (“tereastarr”) on her Hotmail account and her Kazaa account; second, presiding judge Michael Davis instructed the jury that simply making the files available was, in fact, copyright infringement, so any songs that were in her Kazaa folder were in fact songs that were being infringed upon. And as far as the amount of the damages, this instruction to the jury came into play:

JURY INSTRUCTION NO. 22: In this case, each plaintiff has elected to recover “statutory damages” instead of its actual damages and profits. Under the Copyright Act, each plaintiff is entitled to a sum of not less than $750 or more than $30,000 per act of infringement (that is, per sound recording downloaded or distributed without license), as you consider just. If, however, you find that the defendant’s conduct was willful, then each plaintiff is entitled to a sum of up to $150,000 per act of infringement (that is, per sound recording downloaded or distributed without license), as you consider just.

In determining the just amount of statutory damages for an infringing defendant, you may consider the willfulness of the defendant’s conduct, the defendant’s innocence, the defendant’s continuation of infringement after notice or knowledge of the copyright or in reckless disregard of the copyright, effect of the defendant’s prior or concurrent copyright infringement activity, and whether profit or gain was established.

The jury decided on a fine of $9,250 per song (the case focused on 24 songs), which totaled $222,000–a much higher sum than the $4,000 that people who are targeted by the RIAA eventually settle for. Which means that we should probably expect more and more litigation to come down the pike, as people figure out what BigChampagne head Eric Garland calls “new and innovative tools for infringement online” while labels run for the biggish paydays afforded by these suits and put off figuring out revenue streams that don’t involve paying squads of lawyers hundreds of dollars per hour for another few years or so.

Four reasons why the RIAA won a jury verdict of $220,000 []