Okay, I don't know for sure if Jammie Thomas's life is ruined, but I suspect at the very least she's having a bad month. The jury in her trial, where she faced the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), determined that she was guilty of possessing 24 songs -- although the RIAA claimed she shared more than 1,700 tracks -- and was fined $9,250 (£4,500) per song.
The total cost with legal fees is very likely to be nearly $250,000 (£123,000). Can you imagine being faced with a debt like that? You probably won't be surprised to learn that the verdict reduced Thomas to tears. Her lawyer said she stood to lose a quarter of her paychecks for the rest of her life to pay the fine.
I'm not interested in whether she had the music on her computer, or whether she shared it via Kazaa -- honestly, if she used Kazaa that should be considered punishment enough. I'm certainly not going to defend breaking copyright law, because it's reasonable for artists to make money from their work. What I'm bothered by is the concept that someone can be saddled with an enormous debt for a crime like this.
Generally speaking, I find the music industry's attitude towards this kind of crime despicable. There is no level to which they won't stoop to grab a couple of pennies, usually from those who can afford it least -- like children, people without computers, the elderly or the dead.
There are a couple of important lessons to learn here. Firstly, if you get sued, don't contest it and plead 'not guilty', because you'll end up poor for the rest of your life. Secondly, you'd get a much less severe sentence for stealing a few CDs.