Jammie Thomas will appeal, lawyer says

One of Thomas-Rasset's attorneys says she will appeal and will argue that the $1.9 million in damages she was ordered to pay are unconstitutional.

It's official: Jammie Thomas-Rasset intends to appeal her case, one of her lawyers told CNET News on Wednesday.

"She's not interested in settling," attorney Joe Sibley said in a brief phone interview. "She wants to take the issue up on appeal on the constitutionality of the damages. That's one of the main arguments--that the damages are disproportionate to any actual harm."

Joe Sibley (left) and Kiwi Camara represent Jammie Thomas-Rasset. Camara & Sibley law firm

Thomas-Rasset has a brief period to file a notice of appeal, legal experts said. The actual appeal can come later.

What this means is that the Thomas-Rasset drama will have a third act. In October 2007, a jury rendered a $222,000 verdict against her but that decision was later tossed out.

Then, two weeks ago, a federal jury in Minnesota found Thomas-Rasset liable for willful copyright infringement and ordered her to pay $1.9 million. Since then, the blogosphere has churned with speculation about how she will proceed. The 32-year-old Minnesota resident said after her latest trial that she would refuse to pay. Still, with $1.9 million in damages strapped around her neck, many have wondered whether Thomas-Rasset would fight on--or cut her losses and settle.

The Recording Industry Association of America said on Monday that it had made a phone call to Sibley and law partner Kiwi Camara last week to ask whether Thomas-Rasset wanted to discuss a settlement. An RIAA representative said that its lawyers were told by Sibley that Thomas-Rasset wasn't interested in discussing any deal that required her to admit guilt or pay any money.

In settlement talks, there's often maneuvering, so the RIAA was unsure which way Thomas-Rasset would go--at least until Sibley made it clear.

"The defendant can, of course, exercise her legal rights," said Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman. "But what's increasingly clear, now more than ever, is that she is the one responsible for needlessly prolonging this case and refusing to accept any responsibility for the illegal activity that two juries decisively found her liable for. From day one, we've been fair and reasonable in exercising our rights and attempting to resolve this case."

Sibley told CNET News that when RIAA lawyers called a couple of days after the second trial to gauge Thomas-Rasset's interest in settling, they didn't throw out any dollar figures. He did say that following Thomas-Rasset's first trial, the trade group offered to settle for $25,000.

Thomas-Rasset's case has already helped set a series of important legal precedents, including establishing that it is sufficient to show that defendants placed files in their P2P shared folder to prove they intended to make the music available across the network. With the case going to the appeals process, there's a good chance it will continue establishing legal parameters.

"They have an uphill battle," said Ben Sheffner, a former attorney at 20th Century Fox and a rising star on the pro-copyright side. Sibley and Camara "are asking the court to do something no federal court has ever done before. However, this is a good test case. You have a non-wealthy defendant and you have a huge damages award."

 

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