Woman to Pay Downloading Award Herself

The Associated Press
Friday, October 5, 2007; 8:09 PM

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jammie Thomas makes $36,000 a year but says she's not looking for a handout to pay a $222,000 judgment after a jury decided she illegally shared music online.

"I'm not going to ask for financial help," she told The Associated Press on Friday. But she added, "If it comes, I'm not going to turn it down, either."

Record labels have sued more than 26,000 people they accuse of downloading and offering music for sharing online in violation of copyright laws. Many of those people have settled by paying the companies a few thousand dollars.

Thomas was the first person to fight back all the way to a trial. Six major record companies accused Thomas of offering 1,702 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network. At trial, they focused on 24 songs and jurors decided Thursday that Thomas willfully violated the copyright on all 24. Their verdict was for damages of $9,250 per song, or $222,000.

The recording industry won two victories with that verdict.

Beyond the money, the industry added to a growing body of legal precedents holding that making copyright-protected songs available online, even without proof the songs went anywhere, infringes on the copyrights for the songs.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis was planning to instruct jurors as they began their deliberations that record companies would have to prove someone copied the songs to show copyright infringement.

But record company attorney Richard Gabriel cited cases where making songs available was found to be infringement, and Davis changed course.

Legal experts said the question isn't settled.

"Record labels don't like that because it's harder to prove," said Andrew Bridges, an attorney who has argued for the Computer & Communications Industry Association that copyright holders should have to prove the offered material is actually used.

"It's all about whether they get a free pass to impose onerous damages on people without actually having to prove a case," Bridges said.

International intellectual property treaties assume that simply making a work of art available can violate the copyright, said Jane C. Ginsburg, an intellectual law professor at Columbia Law School.

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