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RIAA appeals Jammie Thomas ruling

By | Published on Wednesday 24 August 2011

Jammie Thomas

Some people might say that once you’ve realised you’ve engaged in one of the worst PR exercises your industry has ever seen, and have found other less self-harming ways to pursue your agenda, that it would probably be best to put anything to do with the disastrous exercise behind you. But hey, those people don’t work for the Recording Industry Association Of America.

Yes, even though it means spending even more money on a case that will never see any return, and only serves to make the general public think that record companies are evil, the RIAA is appealing the latest ruling in the long-running Jammie Thomas case.

OK, a quick (by which I mean slightly lengthy) recap: Back in 2005, Jammie Thomas was sent a letter offering her the chance to settle out of court, after it was found that she had shared 24 songs illegally using Kazaa. She refused and was sued by the Recording Industry Association Of America.

At first hearing, Thomas was ordered to pay $222,000 to the record industry in damages, but then the judge overseeing the case decided that hearing hadn’t been done right, and ordered a second trial. At that, the jury hearing the case, for reasons best known to themselves, ordered Jammie, a single mother of limited means, to pay $1.92 million in damages. A judge subsequently ruled the jury had got it wrong, and slashed the damages figure to $54,000.

The RIAA, to be fair, was willing to accept that figure, but Jammie, perhaps sensing things were going in her favour, refused to pay even the lower sum. So the RIAA appealed the judge’s amendment of the original jury decision, sending the case back into court for a third time, where the jury awarded the record industry $1.5 million in damages.

Then last month, the judge hearing the case ruled that the damages agreed by the jury in the latest trial were “outrageously high” and “appalling”, and cut the figure back down to $54,000.

In new documents issued to the appeal court this week, and seen by CNET, the RIAA is asking for that latest ruling to be reconsidered, on the grounds that the judge may have incorrectly applied two sections of the US Copyright Act. And so the case, and the story, and the big fat headache that was the RIAA’s sue-the-fans strategy last decade, rumbles on.