March 18, 2013, 6:20 PM — Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a Minnesota woman who has been fighting for years to reverse a $222,000 judgment for music piracy Monday finally ran out of legal appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear her petition for a review of the case.
The decision means that Thomas-Rasset will either have to find a way to pay the money or negotiate the amount down with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the trade body representing the music industry in the case.
Ray Beckerman, a lawyer who has represented individuals in music piracy cases. called the Supreme Court's decision unsurprising but disappointing all the same.
"It doesn't necessarily say anything about the Supreme Court's views on the subject," Beckerman said. "Very, very few certiorari petitions are ever granted," by the Supreme Court he said. "It saddens me that the Supreme Court did not take the case on," he added.
At this point, Rasset can either do nothing and let the RIAA try to collect what it can, file bankruptcy to discharge the debt or settle, he added.
In an email to Computerworld, Thomas-Rasset lawyer K.A.D. "Kiwi" Kamara today called the decision disappointing as well but declined further comment on what Thomas-Rasset will do next.
Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA expressed satisfaction at today's decision. "We appreciate the Court's decision and are pleased that the legal case is finally over," Duckworth said via email. We've been willing to settle this case from day one and remain willing to do so."
The Thomas-Rasset case goes back to 2005 Sony BMG, Arista Records, Warner Brothers and three other music labels accused her of illegally downloading and distributing more than 1,700 songs. They sued her over a representative sample of 24 of those songs. The copyright laws under which Thomas-Rasset was sued allow for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.
The first jury to hear the case, in 2007, found Thomas-Rasset liable for willful copyright infringement and awarded the music companies a total of $222,000 in damages.
That verdict was later set aside on a legal technicality and the case went to trial for a second time in 2009. This time, the jury hit Thomas-Rasset with a staggering $1.92 million fine , a figure that was knocked down to $54,000 by the presiding District Court judge, who described the jury award as out of proportion to any damages the music labels may have suffered.