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Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the woman who made numerous headlines for taking on the RIAA in a losing battle over file sharing, may want to heed the advice of Kenny Rogers. Among his more notable lyrics, Kenny Rogers sang "You got to know when to hold 'em, known when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run." Now that a federal judge has again lowered Thomas-Rasset's verdict, this time from $1.5 million to $54,000, it might be time to run.
"Court in Jammie Thomas-Rasset case reduces 3rd verdict from $1.5 million to $54,000, from $62,500 to $2,250 per song," Ben Shefnnner, a lawyer and copyright blogger who first broke news of the verdict, wrote in a Twitter post.
This is a case that dates all the way back to 2006. Found guilty of illegally sharing 24 songs, Thomas-Rasset was first ordered to pay $222,000 in statutory damages in a trial that ended in 2007. She was granted a request for a new trial over an error in jury instructions over what actually constitutes copyright infringement when it comes to sharing files, and subsequently nailed with a $1.92 million dollar verdict ($80,000 per song).
In 2009, Thomas-Rasset convinced a court that the damage award was disproportionate and unconstitutional. It was subsequently lowered to $54,000 after Judge Davis found the original damages "monstrous and shocking." Following the verdict, the RIAA's lawyers proposed a $25,000 settlement, which she rejected. Yet another trial bumped up the damages to $1.5 million, or $62,500 per song. And so here we are again with Thomas-Rasset once more legally on the hook for $54,000.
"The Court is intimately familiar with this case. It has presided over three trials on this matter and has decided countless motions," Judge Davis wrote in his decision. "It has grappled with the outrageously high verdict returned in a case that was the first of its kind to go to trial. The Court is loath to interfere with the jury's damages decision. However, the Constitution and justice compel the Court to act."
Judge Davis went on to the call the "award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use" as "appalling," calling it "so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable." The $54,000 award is "punitive and substantial" and intended to act "as a potent deterrent."
You can read the rest of the decision here (PDF).