[caption id="attachment_739" align="alignleft" width="77" caption="Jammie Thomas-Rasset"][/caption] Jammie Thomas-Rasset might not seem like the recording industry's arch-nemesis. She is a single mother of four children who works for an Indian tribe in Minnesota. Yet this week she was slammed in court with a staggering $1.92 million fine for illegally downloading 24 songs – or $80,000 per track – in a suit brought against her by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
"There's no way they're ever going to get that," Thomas-Rasset told the Associated Press. "I'm a mom, limited means, so I'm not going to worry about it now."
Thomas-Rasset proves there is no simple stereotype for illegal downloaders. But she's a case study in the complexities of bringing users of file-sharing networks to trial.
More than 35,000 lawsuits have been filed against alleged illegal downloaders. But as MTV News's Gil Kaufman notes, Jammie Thomas-Rasset’s case was the first case to actually go to trial in the United States. In fact, this is the second time her case was heard. A judge tossed out her case in 2007, claiming he had erred in giving jury instructions. While Thomas-Rasset was still deemed guilty in that first trial, she was only fined $220,000, a fraction of the newer judgment.
The RIAA first accused Thomas-Rasset of sharing 1,700 songs on Kazaa back in 2005. But the companies decided to restrict their claim to 24 particular songs “for simplicity’s sake.”
What makes the argument particularly difficult is that Thomas-Rasset claims tha either her kids or ex-husband were sharing those tracks on her computer, not her. And insofar as that's probably true of many file sharers today, who should be punished?
Among the 24 tracks she was accused of downloading illegally were tunes by No Doubt, Linkin Park, Gloria Estefan, and Sheryl Crow.
The RIAA is reportedly willing to settle, so the hefty fine will likely come down. But whatever they agree on, it will definitely makes iTunes' fee of 99 cents per song sound like a bargain.