Minnesota Mom Again Ordered to Pay Over $1 Million for File Sharing

In a third trial, a federal jury has again found that a Minnesota mother of four owes $1.5 million for downloading and sharing 24 copyrighted songs over the Internet. In June of 2009, the convicted file-sharer was ordered to pay $1.92 million in damages–$80,000 for each of the 24 shared songs. However, last January, the Chief Judge of the federal district court in Minnesota found the award “monstrous and shocking” and reduced it to $54,000 (Capitol Records, Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset, DMinn, 06-1497 D/RLE, January 22, 2010). The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade company representing the music labels that own the copyrights in the shared songs, rejected the reduced penalty and moved for a new trial to determine damages.

The federal court rejected the file-sharer’s request that the jury be instructed that their “award of statutory damages must bear a reasonable relationship to the harm suffered by each plaintiff as a result of the defendant’s actions. There was no authority for the proposition that a jury should be so instructed in a statutory damages cases. On November 3, 2010, the court ordered the file-sharer to pay $62,500 for each of the infringed songs. One of her attorneys has stated that that she will not pay, and that he plans to argue that the statute allowing such high damages for copyright violations is unconstitutional.