One of the last individuals prosecuted for file-sharing lost her appeal against her 2009 conviction.
Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a Native American mother of four from Brainerd, Minnesota, has lost her Federal Appeals Court case and will have to pay a fine of $220,000 for illegally downloading and file-sharing 24 songs. Thomas-Rasset did not comment on the ruling, and it is not known if she will continue appealing her conviction. A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said "We are pleased with the appellate court's decision and look forward to putting this case behind us."
Thomas-Rasset, whose legal battle began in 2006, is one of the few remaining defendants to be prosecuted as individuals for illegal music file-sharing. Anti-piracy groups like the RIAA had been keen to prosecute in such cases, making a public example of some to discourage others. "They're trying to create an urban legend out of me - the kid who downloaded music," said Joel Tenenbaum, another individual prosecuted by the RIAA. The heavy fines - Thomas-Rasset's damages were assessed at $1.92 million at her 2009 retrial - were sought as a deterrent, not as a means of recouping losses.
Public opinion backlash against individual prosecutions soon forced anti-piracy groups to switch targets. Instead they focused on the likes of Pirate Bay and Kim Dotcom, in an attempt to stifle the problem at its source. Thomas-Rasset is one of the few remaining individual prosecutions not to have settled.
It is unlikely that Thomas-Rasset, who works as natural resources coordinator for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, could ever pay the damages imposed. Nor does it seem likely that she would pay if she could; Thomas-Rasset has rejected RIAA settlement offers in the past for amounts as low as $4,500. At the time Thomas-Rasset described the settlement offers as "extortion".
At $220,000 total for 24 tracks, the fine effectively values songs such as "Rhythm is Gonna Get You" (Gloria Estefan), "Bills, Bills, Bills" (Destiny's Child), and "Basket Case" (Green Day) at slightly over $9,160 each.