thomas rasset Capitol v. Thomas, defendant to appeal $222,000 music sharing fine in U.S. Supreme Court

A jury awarded the RIAA a judgment of $222,000 against Jammie Thomas-Rasset in regards to her sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.  Rasset appealed the judgment and lost; the defense now wants the U.S. Supreme Court to hear it.

The case against a Jammie Thomas-Rasset began in 2007 when she was sued for file sharing music over the now defunct Kazaa file-sharing network in the case of Capitol v. Thomas (previously titled Virgin v. Thomas.).  Capitol v. Thomas set a precedent since it was the first such case of file sharing brought on a consumer by a major music label and tried in front of a jury.

The defense for Rasset's case has just recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme court to hear it to see if the incredibly high fine imposed on Rasset is illegal under the U.S. Constitution.  Rasset was fined 22,000 for downloading and sharing only 24 copyrighted songs.

If the case does make it to the SC, the defense will also argue the entire legitimacy of the Copyright Act.  This act, which was fought for by the music industry, allows for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.  Many legal experts feel that amount constitutes as ‘cruel or unusual’.

The Obama administration got itself involved in this case earlier when it was in the court of appeals.  The U.S. Solicitor General said the damages were indeed constitutional because they are “reasonably related to furthering the public interest in protecting original works of artistic literary, and musical expression.” The administration also stated in regards to the appeal to the SC that the case “is not an appropriate vehicle to decide” whether or not a high fine is legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Rasset would be making history for the second time if her case were brought before the SC.  She was the first to be sued by a major recording label for file sharing and also be the first to bring a file sharing case before the SC.  Rasset’s case would specifically involve the opinion on the lower 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in September 2012 that defended the award by the jury against Rasset. 

The RIAA also made a recent opposition to Rasset’s SC petition.  In a public statement, the RIAA said that Rasset’s copyright infringement fines were justified because she knew what she was doing.  They also brought up the fact that three other juries found her guilty of copyright infringement.