Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Appeal in $222,000 File-Sharing Case

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For close on six years the dizzying file-sharing case of the RIAA vs Jammie Thomas-Rasset has been winding its way back and forth through the U.S. legal system. The U.S. government itself got involved last month, submitting a brief to the Supreme Court asking it to uphold the $220,000 verdict. Today the Court granted that wish with an announcement that it will not hear Thomas-Rasset's appeal.

The historic case of the world’s largest recording labels versus the Minnesota mother is well known for its tortuous and extended path through the U.S. legal system.

The case first went to trial in 2007 and resulted in a $222,000 award after Thomas-Rasset was found to have illegally shared songs using the now defunct file-sharing system KaZaA.

The judge later admitted to an error in instructions given to the jury and in 2009 the case went to a second trial, ending with the jury awarding the music industry $90,000 per song shared, a total of $1.92 million.

Thomas-Rasset appealed again, stating that the damages awarded were excessive. The judge responded by dropping the award to $54,000 ($2,250 per song) and offered yet another trial to deal with the issue of damages.

In 2010 that resulted in an award to the recording labels of $1.5 million. It was later reduced to $54,000 again.

Two years later in September 2012 the appeals court reinstated the $222,000 verdict of 2007, deciding that the amount was not unconstitutional. Refusing to admit defeat, December last year Thomas-Rasset said she would take her case to the Supreme Court in an attempt to get the “excessive” damages overturned.

But in a further setback, last month she discovered that her severe punishment would be backed by none other than the United States government.

In a brief submitted by the Obama administration the government backed the RIAA and asked the Supreme Court to keep the $222,000 intact.

“An award of statutory damages under the Copyright Act does not simply redress a private injury, but also serves to vindicate an important public interest,” the brief read.

“That public interest cannot be realized if the inherent difficulty of proving actual damages leaves the copyright holder without an effective remedy for infringement or precludes an effective means of deterring further copyright violations,” it added.

The Supreme Court went away to consider its options and a few minutes ago delivered its decision. In a government and RIAA-pleasing announcement the Court revealed it will not hear Thomas-Rasset’s appeal.

According to Associated Press, the justices gave no comment on letting the previous judgment stand.


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