Duluth jury decides Brainerd woman must pay $222,000 for downloaded music files

A 12-person jury in Duluth ruled today that Jammie Thomas, 30, of Brainerd did pirate 24 copyrighted sound recordings, and it ordered her to pay $222,000.

A 12-person jury in Duluth ruled today that Jammie Thomas, 30, of Brainerd did pirate 24 copyrighted sound recordings, and it ordered her to pay $222,000.

The verdict was expected to signal the level of proof needed to find someone liable for copyright infringement.

The verdict sends the message that it is not acceptable to download and share copyrighted material, Richard Gabriel, lead trial counsel for the record industry, said outside the Duluth Federal Building.

"The jury basically understood our case," he said.

Gabriel added that the music industry will continue to take legal action against suspected copyright violators.


The verdict ended three days of testimony and questioning in U.S. District Court in Duluth against Thomas, a single mother of two who was accused of downloading and sharing certain music files. Six recording companies sought damages that could have reached millions of dollars.

Thomas and her Minneapolis attorney, Brian Toder, declined comment after the verdict. When asked if they would appeal the verdict, Toder said he and his client had not discussed the question.

The jurors also made a quick exit from the Federal Building, one man holding a red file folder in front of his face, others walking away in small groups. They all declined to speak about their decision.

Darrin Printy, the information technology security coordinator for St. Cloud State University where, it was revealed in court, Thomas had once attended classes, said he felt the verdict "was a tough one."

He attended the three-day trial to learn more about the burden of proof required to prove someone illegally downloaded files. The issue is a hot topic on the college campus.

"If the verdict stands, it will make it a lot simpler to go after people," Printy said.

Printy said he will likely send out an updated warning to students next week about file-sharing, an update that will include information about the Thomas case.

"This is no longer just a scare tactic, or something that will always be settled out of court," Printy said.


He added that he is considering asking Thomas to speak at the college when they host a national symposium for resident advisers in 2009.

The case attracted national and global interest for the first-ever jury trial of someone accused of pirating music files.

The lawsuit, brought by the Recording Industry Association of America for Virgin Records, Capitol Records, Sony BMG, Arista Records, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records and UMG Recordings, claimed that Thomas distributed 1,702 digital audio files -- many of them the plaintiffs' copyrighted sound recordings -- from the KaZaA shared folder on her computer to potentially millions of other KaZaA users for free. The plaintiff's sued her over 24 of the works.

The jury decided that Thomas willfully infringed all 24 works and awarded statutory damages of $9,250 for each. The range of statutory damages jurors could have awarded ranged from $750 to $150,000.

Jurors declined to talk to reporters after the trial, although they did talk with the plaintiff's legal team. Gabriel said he wasn't surprised by the damage amount. He said he didn't ask jurors how they arrived at the odd amount.

Gabriel hadn't asked the jurors for a specific dollar amount for damages, leaving it to them to determine what Thomas should pay.

In reaching their verdict, jurors obviously didn't believe Thomas, who testified Wednesday that she had never heard of KaZaA and never used the peer-to-peer file sharing service on her computer.

But a computer security expert for the recording industry said all computer forensic evidence points to Thomas being guilty of copyright infringement.


Investigators for the plaintiffs provided jurors evidence that the IP address (a number assigned to a subscriber connected to an Internet Service Provider), a modem Media Access Control address and Thomas' username all link her to the pirating.

In his defense of Thomas, Toder said he and his client can't explain what happened but that it wasn't proven that his client shared copyrighted files. Toder offered theories that there could have been a computer party at Thomas's home or someone could have been outside her window with a laptop.

Thomas testified that despite the plaintiffs producing exhibits with her computer identifiers printed next to the computer screenshots, she was not the one who uploaded the music to the file-sharing service. She had no explanation for why she was identified as the pirate.

Toder has also suggested that computer hacking or IP spoofing could as explanations. Spoofing is someone pretending to be somebody else by taking over their IP address.

But an expert witness disagreed.

"My opinion is that it did not happen," Doug Jacobson, an Iowa State University professor and computer security expert, testified. "Making IP spoofing work is extremely complicated. Pretending to be somebody else at the same time they're on the Internet is almost impossible to carry out.''

Gabriel called witnesses this week to show that Thomas replaced the hard drive in her computer two weeks after an investigation by the music industry caught the alleged copyright infringement.

Gabriel said there is no question that someone using the name " Tereastar@Kazaa " distributed copyrighted material, the question is was the user Thomas.


The weight of the evidence shows it was, Gabriel said.

"All fingers point at Jammie Thomas in this case," he said, noting her user name, IP address, Modem MAC address, pass-word-protected computer, and the songs in the shared folder matched her musical tastes.

"We connected the dots for you," he told the jurors.

Thomas works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in its natural resources and environment department. She is a grant coordinator to redevelop contaminated property. She testified that she has a bachelor's degree in business administration from St. Cloud State University. Gabriel used his questioning to point out how proficient Thomas is on a computer. The defendant has taken several computer classes and uses a computer to keep track of budgets and write grants.

Thomas, a single mother of two children, ages 8 and 11, said the lawsuit has changed her life.

"It's been very stressful," she said. "I have multi-billion dollar corporations with their own economies of scale suing me so it's been very stressful.''

She said the lawsuit has also affected her children. "I no longer have any disposable income whatsoever," she said. "My disposable income used to go for CDs, but obviously not anymore. I've had to make some changes regarding extras for my children. All the disposable income went toward this case. I didn't do this and I refuse to be bullied."

Thomas testified that she has 240 CDs, but at one time had more than 400.


At times, Toder, an International Falls native who is recognized as a Super Lawyer by Minnesota Law and Politics Magazine, seemed to be tell jurors that this is a "big guy vs. little gal'' case.

There were six members of the plaintiffs' briefcase brigade with assistants passing notes to the two lawyers and one music industry official at the plaintiff's counsel table. Meanwhile, Toder sometimes needs the help of his client in searching for papers he's looking for.

Before the verdict, Thomas and her attorney spoke briefly. Thomas said listening to the plaintiffs' closing argument left a bad taste in her mouth.

"They were taking the evidence that was presented and twisting it," she said.

Toder spent much of his 20-minute closing argument going over and disputing evidence presented by the plaintiffs. He referred to the recording industry's star witness, Iowa State University professor and computer security expert Doug Jacob-son, as a "hired gun," with a financial incentive in this case.

"He was making up things as he went along," Toder said. "I respectfully ask you to reject all the testimony of Dr. Jacob-son."

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