In the first US trial to challenge the illegal downloadin of musci on the Internet, a single mother from Minnesota was ordered Thursday to pay 220,000 dollars for sharing 24 songs online.
Jammie Thomas, 30, was the first among more than 26,000 people sued by the world's most powerful recording companies to refuse a settlement after being slapped with a lawsuit by the Recording Industry of America and six major music labels.
She turned down an offer to pay a few thousands dollars in fines and instead took the case to court.
Unlike some who insist on the right to share files over the Internet, Thomas says she was wrongfully targeted by SafeNet, a contractor employed by the recording industry to patrol the Internet for copyrighted material.
Her lawyer said earlier this week that she had racked up some 60,000 dollars in legal fees because she refused to be bullied.
And while Thomas insisted on the courthouse steps that she had never downloaded or uploaded music, her lawyer tried to convince jurors there was no way to prove who had uploaded songs on the Kazaa file sharing network.
A jury took just five hours to decide that evidence provided by the music labels showed otherwise and found Thomas guilty of copyright infringement, court records showed.
Thomas, an employee of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, an Indian tribe, was ordered to pay a 9,250-dollar fine for each of 24 shared songs cited in the case, including Godsmack's "Spiral," Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills" and Sara McLachlan's "Building a Mystery."
It could have been a lot worse.
The fine could have reached 150,000 dollars a song if the jury had found "willful" copyright infringement.
Had the record companies sued her for all 1,702 songs found in the online folder the fine could have run in the millions.
I have mixed feeling about the subject. On one hand, I can't justify downloading the songs illegally when you can pay $0.99 per song on iTunes. Seems like a reasonable price and it's nice to be able to pick and choose songs without having to drop $13 on an overall crappy CD. On the other hand, I like the concept of "file sharing" as cost effective and effecient means of accessing content online.