The big bad Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has once again committed an act of evil. This time, the victim is a mother of four from Minnesota who illegally shared 24 songs on the site Kazaa.com. (I know, right? Send that woman to jail, stat.) Jammie Thomas-Rasset was the first person taken to trial by the RIAA in 2003 and after six years and one mistrial, she has finally received her sentence: $1.9 million in piracy damages. In her original trial, Thomas-Rasset was only ordered to pay $9,250 per song, but the ruling was thrown out due to poorly-worded instructions given to the jury. Despite being offered deals by the RIAA to settle out of court, Thomas-Rasset persisted with the case to show that lawmakers need to ease up on the financial penalties for music sharing. Consider her point truly proven: her sentence comes out to about $80K per song. That’s the equivalent of a record label selling about 114,000 songs through the iTunes Store. Clearly, the punishment does not fit the crime.
Although the RIAA changed the way it battles copyright infringement in 2007––people now receive early settlement letters suggesting they pay a fee online (at minimum $750 per file) or be subpoenaed to court––the system is still very flawed. If any good has come of this, it’s that 32-year-old Jammie Thomas-Rasset has waged a strong fight against a really stupid law. We just feel bad that now she’s $2 million in the hole. [LA Times Blog]