Remember Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota mom who was hit with an insane $1.5 million judgment last year for illegally downloading and sharing 24 songs back in 2006? Rasset-Thomas and her legal team appealed that massive fine, and on Friday a Minnesota District Court judge ruled it was too extreme, lowering the penalty to much-less-but-still-severe $54,000.
In a 43-page statement, Judge Michael Davis agreed that while Thomas-Rasset did break copyright laws when she shared songs on the peer-to-peer network Kazaa, the $1.5 million decision was unconstitutional. Davis argued that, by law, the most Thomas-Rasset can fined is $2,250 per song. While this decision saves Thomas-Rasset roughly $1,450,000, it's still unlikely she'll pay this much-reduced penalty.
Thomas-Rasset has actually stood trial three times for the same copyright crime -- her first proceeding ended in a fine of $222,000, which she appealed. The second trial concluded with a penalty of $1.92 million, but sympathetic Judge Davis was also on the bench for that appeal and called that fine "monstrous and shocking" and a "gross injustice," lowering the judgement to $54,000. But Thomas-Rasset appealed that ruling, too, and was slapped with the $1.5 million (or $62,500 per song) at the end of her third trial.
This time around, Davis wrote, "The Court concludes that an award of $1.5 million for stealing and distributing 24 songs for personal use is appalling. Such an award is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportioned to the offense and obviously unreasonable." Team Thomas-Rasset believe they owe $24, or roughly what 24 songs would cost legally on iTunes. $54,000 might be a lot less than $1.5 million, but it's also a lot more than $24.
This trial has become bigger than Thomas-Rasset; it's become the embodiment of a much larger fight between the music industry and illegal downloaders as a whole. Both sides refuse to give in because of the large-scale repercussions losing represents. So even though a judge lowered the fine to a reasonable, five-figure number, it's likely this battle will continue on. According to the Duluth News Tribune, Thomas-Rasset's legal team has yet to comment on whether they plan to pay or appeal the $54,000 ruling. We're betting though that the Minnesota mom is no closer to taking out her checkbook, and that this saga will go to trial once again.