RIAA’s First Jury Trial Against a File-Sharing Defendant Ends in Victory

By Melissa Wade

On October 4, 2007, a federal jury in Duluth, Minnesota, handed the RIAA a $222,000 victory in its first copyright infringement suit to go to trial.

Jammie Thomas, a 30-year-old single mother from Minnesota, made history when she became the first defendant to go to trial in a copyright infringement suit brought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade group representing the interests of the music industry that has sued over 20,000 defendants since 2003 for copyright infringement resulting from file-sharing.  Thomas, known online as “tereastarr,” was ordered to pay $222,000 to four recording companies, $9,250 per song, after a federal jury found that Thomas had willfully infringed the copyrights for 24 songs by using the file-sharing program Kazaa.   The jury could have awarded the RIAA between $18,000 and $3.6 million in damages.

During the trial, the RIAA produced evidence suggesting that Thomas shared approximately 1,700 files on Kazaa since 2005, linking Thomas’ internet protocol address and cable modem account to her internet service provider.  Denying that she personally shared the files at issue in the case, Thomas argued that, despite the fact that the files were found under an account with her screen name “tereastarr,” the downloads were the result of a hacker who she claimed infiltrated her computer system.

Thomas, who works as an administrator for a Native American tribe, has indicated that she plans to appeal the verdict.