The recording industry secured a resounding victory last week when a Minneapolis jury awarded the four major labels $1.92 million in damages after unanimously finding that a 32-year-old mother had willfully infringed on their copyrights by downloading and sharing 24 songs on the Kazaa peer-to-peer network.
But a question arose after the verdict about whether the sheer size of the damages could lead to a backlash against an industry that is already portrayed in some quarters as overreaching. Sony BMG attorney Wade Leak, who testified at the trial, said he was “shocked” by the damages award.
No one expects that the labels will collect the entire amount from Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a 32-year-old Brainerd, Minn., mother of four who testified during the retrial that her ex-boyfriend or sons, then 8 and 10, were most likely responsible for downloading and distributing the songs. Thomas-Rasset lost her previous trial in 2007 and was ordered to pay $222,000, only to achieve a now-pyrrhic victory when the court tossed the verdict because of a faulty jury instruction.
Even for law-abiding citizens who believe that labels have every right to protect their copyrights, a verdict of almost $2 million could be hard to swallow. Indeed, the Recording Industry Assn. of America said it was willing to…
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