19 June, 2009

Jammie Thomas-Rasset Ordered to Pay RIAA US$1.92Million

What you are about to read is researched, mainly citing the Associated Press as the primary source. Sound Design And Assembly was not there to conduct original reporting; we have jobs we need to be at and nobody pays us for this. What follows is essentially the gyst of two years of legal debates over copyright infringement and theft. While largely opinion based, efforts have been made to not misrepresent the people or situations in this post. In addition, the cited sources are presented at the bottom of the page for the reader to verify the context. The author knows dick all about the legal system.
Today, the blogosphere is on fire, again. Well, at least the music-based blogosphere.
Here's what happened: Jammie - I know, I know, apparently it's pronounced "Jamie" - Thomas-Rasset was caught illegally downloading and uploading* music and so the RIAA said, "Uh, hi. Yeah, you didn't pay for that. Um, so here's some legal mumbo-jumbo that means we're pressing charges."
Apparently, and this is just what I've inferred from what I've read** over the AP wire is that US$3K-US$5K is the RIAA's standard settlement amount. Three to five grand? A pittance compared to a student loan or a mortgage, so just about everybody who gets smacked upside the head with this amount goes for this. Everybody except Jammie Thomas-Rasset.
Well, the RIAA didn't like getting smacked back across the cheek like Zsa-Zsa did the cop and took her ass to court. Out of a possible one thousand seven hundred two songs (I know, that's tiny compared to how the young'uns roll nowadays), a tally reported by Billboard according to Wikipedia, the RIAA specified only two dozen songs on which to focus when they took her to court. This is when Jammie first concocted a brilliant defense: Lying through her rural-Minnesotan teeth by employing the water-tight "Yo, that shit wasn't me" strategy.
Well, as with everything but the OJ case, nobody was buying her story and in the end, according to Reuters, the jury awarded the RIAA US$9250 per each of the twenty four cited songs resulting in a total of US$222K.
Let that sink in.
She could've gotten off with no more than a US$5K slap on the wrist.
She was now stuck with a US$222K butt fucking.
By not just owning up to thievery, she increased her penalty 4440%.
Then the judge said, "You know what? I think I messed with the jury, so I'm calling a do-over." Not a mistrial, a retrial. The retrial was staged a year and a half later, meaning this week. This entire time, according to the AP article, the US$3K-US$5K thing is still being kicked around. The RIAA just wanted her to admit that she was caught fuckin' up. "Just admit you were stealing, give us five grand, maybe a little less, we'll call it a day."
Well, Jammie don't play that shit.
So it was back to court everybody went and lo! and behold! the "It could have been my kids but I can't be sure" defense didn't work this time, either. Imagine that. Now let me go on a related tangent right quick before we go any further:
At present, it's hard to find facts because the pro-file sharing / anti-RIAA (which are not same thing, it should be noted) blogosphere is, as already stated, on damn fire today.
The blog Recording Industry vs The People by New York-based business lawyer Ray Beckerman today includes a sizable list of "commentary and discussion" sources, one of which is gearslutz.com. I know it's my own stigma but, really, just because we're in the free wheelin' twenty first century does not mean I'm going to consider a site with the word "slut" in its name a viable source of discussion.
You can, however, at Beckerman's site, view court documents and evidence used in the case, and since the case has gone two rounds over two years resulting in a US$1.92million award to the plaintiff, there's a lot of shit to sift through. Most damaging is the 66 page .pdf "Exhibit 6" labeled as "Alleged Screen Shot". Yeah. "Alleged". "Alleged". It's a screen shot from her computer of her file sharing program on her computer with her user name on all of the files on her computer, and this guy is still using the word "alleged" like some fucking gnomes came in in the middle of the damned night and did that shit with MSPaint and mailed it to the RIAA.
Guy, she got caught.
After you look at the long list of the court evidence (which Beckerman does not note as presented by either the plaintiff or the defendant), I rrreeeaaallllllyyy want you to look at Exhibit 6. Just based on this alone, those of us with absolutely no legal experience whatsoever - I don't know anything about trials beyond Law & Order and since you probably come here for audio things and jokes about my dad, I'm assuming you don't either - are probably going to weigh that heavily against this "I didn't do it" bullshit.
Also consider this egg-head bullshit statement from one of Jammie's lawyers, Joe Sibley which I will now copy and paste from the AP article that was published this morning, Friday, June 19, 2009, at 0708EDT:
"Only Jammie Thomas's computer was linked to illegal file-sharing on Kazaa," Sibley said. "They couldn't put a face behind the computer."
While that is true, absolutely 100% true, WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK WAS USING IT!? SMURFS!? Jeeze-Louise, guy, look, I know that you took this case pro-bono because you want to be remembered as "the lawyer that took down the RIAA", but I want to ask you three questions:
First, do you really believe your client beyond on a shadow of any doubt?
Secondly, I'll admit to not knowing jack shit about the law, maybe that's my bad, but isn't the old adage that possession is 90% of the law and then on top of that, if her kids were the culprits, that she's still responsible for them as they are minors?
Thirdly, off the top of your head, can you recall the name of Larry Flynt's lawyer? Everybody remembers Larry Flynt but all they know about his lawyer is that Ed Norton played him. Get over it, nobody's going to remember you.
So, after this whole debacle, the jury heard the closing arguments, woke up, looked at each other and asked, "Is she still full of shit? Yeah? OK, let's get this over with." The judge then instructed the jury to not make the penalty something that would ruin Jammie's life (I can't find my source for that quote, I think I accidentally closed that tab, so take that with a grain of salt) and the jury still came back with the penalty of US$80K per song.
You getting that? That's US$1.92Million.
She could have had no more than the US$5K slap on the wrist.
She got stuck with the US$222K butt fucking.
She still had the US$5K wrist slap option.
Instead, she chose to open the mystery box and found out it was US$1.92M DVDA scene employing those sword strap-ons from Seven. You remember that scene? Yeah, four of these things. You know what the rubbing alcohol sting comes from? The US$3K - US$5K settlement offer is still. On. The fucking. Table according to RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth.
And you know what the kicker is? In the AP article I've been citing, Jammie's other lawyer, Kiwi Camara, said the amount that the jury awarded the RIAA, in the AP's words, not his, "... suggested that jurors didn't believe Thomas-Rasset's denials of illegal file-sharing..." WELL, DUH, GENIUS! Aren't you from Harvard? Harvard!? Isn't it kind of a given that if your client says something and the jury finds against them, that they aint buyin' shit?
Note to self: If a guy named after a tropical fruit wants to represent me in court for free, settle out of court.
Now, look, I know I'm being hard on Jammie and her defense team. I know it makes me look like I side with the RIAA. The fact of the matter is that the jury awarded the RIAA US$80K per song. The jury was instructed by the judge to not award such an exorbitant amount that it would ruin a single working mother's life. Somehow, according to the consensus of the jury, US$1.92M is perfectly doable for a single mom from Brainerd, MN. The real douchebags here are the jury members. Think about it, the RIAA is leaving the US$3K - US$5K offer on the table. All she has to do is admit that she's another poor sap that got caught and walk away with a fine that makes my student loans look like the annual operating budget for the City of Gold. But it's through her steadfast commitment to a lie and the jury's douchebaggery that she's gotten herself into this rut. Right now, there are people out there calling the RIAA "greedy" and saying that the organization needs "to get with the times" according to MPR this morning. Get with the times? What, pray tell, are these times? The era in which people should not be expected to pay for music? The era in which a governing body of the entertainment industry, loathe them as I may, are still considered greedy for saying they'll happily accept .26% of the awarded settlement. Look at that number closely. That's .26%. There's a decimal there. It's not even a whole "one" percent. Not even one (1). It's point twenty six percent, point.
According to this morning's AP article, Kiwi said that no decision had been made on his part or on his client's part to appeal the case.

PLEASE READ THESE SOURCES:
Reuters story on the original trial.
Associated Press story on the most recent trial.
Ars Technica's story on the most recent trial. Be sure to read the links at the bottom of that page for details too innumerable to get into here.
Wikipedia overview of the entire debacle.

* Also known as "file sharing", which means the same thing as the word "stealing" but is used so that nobody has to actually acknowledge to themselves that they're a thief. After all, it's sharing. Sharing isn't stealing. Sharing is good and stealing is bad, see?

** I want to be so crystal clear on this that, yes, I am linking to the definition of "infer".

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