updated 08:20 pm EDT, Thu October 4, 2007
Record companies win suit
In a major win for record companies seeking to establish precedent for prosecuting those who trade copyrighted material on the Internet, a federal jury awarded six firms $222,000 in damages from a Minnesota woman who shared music online. Jammie Thomas, 30, was ordered to pay $9,250 for each of 24 songs that were part of the case. The complaint alleged that she had shared 1,702 copyright-violating songs online. The Associated Press quotes Richard Gabriel, lead attorney for the music companies: "This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not OK."
As the first lawsuit of its kind to go to trial (others were settled out-of-court for much less), it accuses Thomas of downloading songs without permission and offering them online through a Kazaa file-sharing account. Thomas claimed she didn't have a Kazaa account, and denied any wrongdoing. Her lawyer said that the companies never proved "Jammie Thomas, a human being, got on her keyboard and sent out these things."
Earlier this week, Sony BMG's current stance on piracy labeled even typical fair use practices as illegal, according to testimony from one of the company's legal experts in the Thomas anti-piracy lawsuit. Litigation head Jennifer Pariser remarked during the case that any instance of copying songs from one medium to another was considered stealing, regardless of whether the listener had already bought the music or a common understanding of fair use, which is not enshrined in law but has been established as a legal precedent. Among the record companies involved in the suit are Sony, Arista, Interscope, UMG, Capitol Inc. and Warner Bros.
Record companies have filed about 26,000 lawsuits since 2003 over file-sharing.