DULUTH, Minn. - The recording industry won a key fight yesterday against illegal music downloading when a federal jury ordered a Minnesota woman to pay $222,000 for sharing copyrighted music online.
The jury ordered Jammie Thomas, 30, to pay the six record companies that sued her $9,250 for each of 24 songs they focused on in the case. They alleged she shared 1,702 songs online in violation of their copyrights.
"She was in tears. She's devastated," Thomas's attorney, Brian Toder, said. "This is a girl that lives from paycheck to paycheck, and now all of a sudden she could get a quarter of her paycheck garnished for the rest of her life."
Richard Gabriel, the lead attorney for the music companies, said, "This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not OK."
He said no decision had yet been made about what the record companies would do, if anything, to pursue collecting the money from Thomas.
Toder said plaintiff's attorney fees are automatically awarded in such judgments under copyright law, meaning Thomas could actually owe as much as a half-million dollars. However, he said he suspected the record companies "will probably be people we can deal with."
In the first such lawsuit to go to trial, the record companies accused Thomas of downloading the songs without permission and offering them online through a Kazaa file-sharing account. Thomas denied wrongdoing and testified that she didn't have a Kazaa account.