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Federal judge reduces $1.92 million jury verdict in music file-sharing case

[JURIST] A federal judge on Friday reduced [order, pdf] a $1.92 million jury verdict against a Minnesota woman who was found to have violated music copyrights to about $54,000. Chief Judge Michael Davis of the US District Court for the District Court of Minnesota [official website] called the damages amount "monstrous and shocking" and said the facts of the case could not justify the jury verdict. Davis emphasized that Jammie Thomas-Rasset was an individual consumer who downloaded music for her own use and not for profit, and also said that the damages to the plaintiffs, members of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [trade website], did not support the verdict. The judge ultimately decided the award should be triple the statutory minimum of $750 per song, because Thomas-Rasset willfully shared 24 songs on the file-sharing program KaZaA [website] and because of the need for deterrence. The ruling also denied a request for a new trial by Thomas-Rasset and gave the RIAA seven days to accept the decision or request a new hearing on the damages issue.

In June, a federal jury in Minnesota found [JURIST report] that Thomas-Rasset had violated music copyrights and assessed damages at $80,000 per song for 24 songs. She was found to have willfully violated copyright law by sharing songs on KaZaA, which has since become a legitimate music purveyor. The proceedings against Thomas-Rasset were a retrial of a previous judgment against her, granted by a federal judge on the grounds that the court erred by instructing the jury that making the music available on the KaZaA network was enough to violate the Copyright Act and that the $222,000 in damages [JURIST reports] was excessive. In December, the RIAA said that it would discontinue its controversial policy [JURIST report] of suing suspected file-sharers and instead will seek cooperation with major Internet service providers to cut off access to repeat offenders.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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