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National News

March 18, 2013

Minnesota woman loses music downloading appeal (UPDATED-says she can't pay)

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota woman at the center of a long-running court fight over the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music said there's still no way she can pay record companies the $222,000 judgment she owes after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal Monday.

The justices did not comment on their decision. Attorneys for Jammie Thomas-Rasset, of Brainerd, argued the amount was excessive.

The music industry filed thousands of lawsuits in the early to mid-2000s against people it accused of downloading music without permission and without paying for it. Almost all the cases settled for about $3,500 apiece. Thomas-Rasset is one of only two defendants who refused to pay and went to trial. The other was former Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum, who also lost and was ordered to pay $675,000.

The industry initially sued Thomas-Rasset in 2006. Since then, her case has gone through three trials and several appeals. The industry presented evidence that Thomas-Rasset made available over 1,700 songs to other computer uses via the file-sharing service Kazaa, though the lawsuit targeted only 24 songs.

"I'm assuming that since they declined to hear the case it's probably done at this point," she said. But she also said she needed to consult with her attorneys to determine what happens next.

Thomas-Rasset, 35, who works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal government, maintained — as she has all along — that she can't afford to pay.

"There's no way that they can collect," she said. "Right now, I get energy assistance because I have four kids. It's just the one income. My husband isn't working. It's not possible for them to collect even if they wanted to. I have no assets."

Thomas-Rasset added that she became a grandmother in June.

The Recording Industry Association of America offered to settle for $5,000 when it first sued, and offered to settle for a $25,000 donation to a charity for music industry people in need after her second trial. She refused both times.

"We appreciate the Court's decision and are pleased that the legal case is finally over," the trade group said in a statement. "We've been willing to settle this case from day one and remain willing to do so."

Thomas-Rasset's attorney, Kiwi Camara, of Houston, expressed disappointment in the outcome but hinted in an email that the legal options may not have run out. He noted that Tenenbaum's case remains live before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Tenenbaum is still challenging the size of the judgment against him. His attorneys, including Camara, argue that it's "grossly disproportionate" to his offense.

The case is Thomas-Rasset v. Capitol Records, 12-715.

 

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