Jammie Thomas asks for new trial

Lawyers for the Minnesota woman ordered last month to pay $1.92 million in damages for the illegal sharing of 24 copyrighted songs say judgment is "grossly excessive."

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

Update 5:48 p.m. PT: To include quotes from Thomas Rasset's attorney.

Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota woman found liable for willful copyright infringement of 24 songs last month, has asked a federal court for a new trial or a reduction in the amount of the $1.92 million damages she was ordered to pay.

Thomas-Rasset, who a jury found liable for willful copyright infringement, asked the court Monday to either alter or amend the judgment, remove or change the award of statutory damages to the minimum, or give her a new trial. The minimum damages would be $18,000.

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

"(The $1.92 million) judgment is grossly excessive and, therefore, subject to remittitur as a matter of federal common law," her lawyers wrote in the filing with U.S. District Court for the district of Minnesota. "Moreover, such a judgment is inconsistent with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution."

In 2007, the Recording Industry Association of America accused Thomas-Rasset, 32, of copyright infringement. The trade group for the four top recording companies initially accused her of sharing 1,700 copyright songs--the equivalent of 150 CDs--but the RIAA whittled down the number to 24. A jury heard the proof against her as well as her defense, which boiled down to her denying any wrongdoing, and rendered a $222,000 verdict against her.

That decision was thrown out by the judge after he acknowledged erring in his jury instructions. Last month, Thomas-Rasset's retrial again saw 12 jurors decide against her. This time, however, they awarded damages of $80,000 for each of the 24 songs she was accused of sharing.

The $1.92 million award outraged many, and last week, Joe Sibley, one of her attorneys told CNET News that she would appeal on the constitutionality of the damages. He said Monday night that he and and legal partner Kiwi Camara still intend to file the appeal but have some time before the deadline.

Jonathan Lamy, an RIAA spokesman declined to comment on Monday, but last week, following Sibley's statement that Thomas-Rasset would appeal, Lamy said: "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."

In the filing, Sibley and law partner Kiwi Camera once again took aim at the evidence gathered on behalf of the RIAA by MediaSentry, the Web sleuths that gather evidence of copyright violations for entertainment companies. MediaSentry did so for the RIAA in the case of Thomas-Rasset.

Sibley and Camara argued that the evidence submitted by MediaSentry is inadmissible because it was collected through illegal means. In Thomas-Rasset's retrial, she alleged that MediaSentry violated private investigator and wiretap statutes in the states in which it operated.

The judge in the case denied her original motion to suppress the evidence. Finally, Thomas-Rasset's attorneys wrote that the courts must distinguish between commercial and non-commercial forms of copyright infringement when assessing penalties.

"Even the plaintiffs were shocked by the verdict," Thomas-Rasset said in her motion. "No one could have expected $1.92 million for 24 songs. That alone justifies remittitur; at a minimum, Mrs. Thomas should not be subjected to a penalty that no reasonable person could have expected would flow from the noncommercial music sharing of which she stands convicted.

"But the verdict reveals a deeper problem with the statutory-damages scheme of the Copyright Act as applied in cases like Mrs. Thomas'. The Act does not distinguish, in determining the range of statutory damages, between commercial and noncommercial infringers, between those who infringe for great profit and those who do so for personal use."

Corrected at 4:40 p.m. PDT: The document filed by Thomas-Rasset's attorneys on Monday was a motion for a new trial.