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Jammie Thomas file-sharing case to return to court, again

By | Published on Monday 25 October 2010

Possibly the most famous of all the sue-the-fan lawsuits (or possibly the second most famous), that involving Jammie Thomas, is set to return to court for a third time.

As much previously reported, the Recording Industry Association Of America is continuing to pursue its outstanding copyright infringement lawsuits against individual file-sharers, despite dropping its sue-the-fans approach to tackling file-sharing sometime ago. The outstanding cases are those where the person accused of file-sharing decided to defend themselves in court.

As in the Jammie Thomas case, said people have generally failed in their bid to convince the courts they are not guilty of copyright infringement, that is to say the RIAA has generally won its legal actions with little drama. However, there has been much more debate as to what sorts of damages defendants should pay to the owners of the copyrights they infringed.

On first hearing, Thomas was ordered to pay the record industry $222,000 in damages, but that ruling was subsequently dismissed, leading to a second trial, where a jury again found the file-sharer guilty of infringement and damages jumped up to a massive $1.92 million. But a subsequent hearing on the damages alone slashed the sum Thomas must pay down to the much more modest $54,000.

Despite the much lower bill now facing the file-sharer, and rumours the RIAA was actually willing to accept about half that sum to end the case, Thomas decided she wanted to return to court for a third time. This hearing will just consider damages, but presumably Thomas thinks she can persuade the jury to slash the money she must pay the record industry even further.

It is a risk. Having had their lower damages offer knocked back, it is thought the RIAA’s legal people will now push for mega-bucks damages again and, if they win them, argue that, if a jury awards major league damages twice, it is not for a judge to slash them. Which could leave Thomas facing a bill of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, once again. Not that she has any money to speak of, making the whole thing a bit pointless really.

The third Jammie Thomas case will reach court on 2 Nov.