Copyright Infringement in USA

Over the past few years Jammie Thomas, from Minnesota, mother of four, has been involved in a three year long court case, dating back to October 4th of 2007, involving copyright infringement. The Minnesota mother was alleged to have shared over 5,000 songs over her lifetime, 1,702 of them being on February 21st, 2005, however plaintiffs only sought relief for only 24 of those. Thomas contested that she was not the person behind the account and denied having shared any files, her lawyer then backed her story saying that somebody must have hacked into her account.

A hard drive containing the copyrighted material was never presented at trial, though Thomas did give the courts a hard drive that did not have any trace of the material that she was being accused of sharing. It is worth noting that the judge instructed the jury that "making available" was enough to constitute an infringement. On October 4th, 2007, after 5 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict finding Thomas liable of willful infringement, and awarded damages in the amount of $222,000, a total of $9,250 per song.

Once the guilty verdict was handed down, Thomas' lawyer then ordered a retrial on the basis that recent case law cast doubt on the theory of "making available" as infringement. After Thomas' original lawyer stepped down in May, 2009 while preparing for the retrial, Thomas accepted Joe Sibley's offer to defend her. The retrial was held on June 15th, 2009 and the jury was then instructed to find the owners' copyright was infringed upon provided the ownership claims were valid and provided there was an infringement of either the reproduction or the distribution right.

For every song reproduced, the jury had to decide whether it was willful or non-willful, then damages had to be assessed accordingly. Again after just five hours of deliberation on June 18th, 2009 the jury found Thomas liable for willful copyright infringement of all the songs in question, and awarded the plaintiffs damages of $1. 92 million $80,000 per song. In the months following.

the plaintiffs filed a motion for an injunction against Thomas that would require her to destroy all infringing recordings on her desktop. Also, on the same day Thomas filed a motion saying the damages awarded to the plaintiffs were to high compared to the actual damages and that it was unconstitutional. She then announced that she planned to appeal the two prior court orders saying that some of the evidence presented by the plaintiffs should have been inadmissible because it was collected in violation of a state law.

The motion called for one of the following three; a retrial, reduction of damages, or removal of statutory damages. In January of 2010, a Minnesota judge reduced the amount of the damages to $54,000 under the common law doctrine of remittitur, saying the original damages were "shocking. " Later that month the plaintiffs proposed a $25,000 settlement to Thomas which she quickly declined, then the plaintiffs then rejected the damage reduction ordered by the judge.