RIAA Wants Infamous File-Sharer to Campaign Against Piracy

Did you hear the one about the world’s most infamous music file-sharer being asked to publicly extol the virtues of the Recording Industry Association of America’s anti-piracy platform?

The RIAA is suggesting Jammie Thomas-Rasset do just that. In exchange, the recording studios’ lobbying and litigation arm would reduce a $222,000 jury verdict the Supreme Court let stand in May — her punishment for sharing 24 songs on the now-defunct file-sharing service Kazaa.

However, the 36-year-old mother of four and the nation’s first file-sharer to challenge a Recording Industry Association of America lawsuit, said she would rather go bankrupt.

“I’m not doing it,” the Minnesota woman said in a telephone interview today. She said she earns a small salary working in the natural resources department of a local Native American tribe.

The RIAA’s overture, which did not specify how much it would relieve of the debt, comes four months after the Supreme Court declined to review Thomas-Rasset’s petition claiming the damages award was unconstitutionally excessive and was not rationally related to the harm she caused the music labels.

In a statement, RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy said:

We continue to try to resolve this case in a reasonable way. In the past, for example, we have reached out to Ms. Thomas to settle the case in exchange for a contribution to a local music charity. We have communicated to Ms. Thomas that we would consider a variety of non-monetary settlement options, which is up to her to offer. We think this is a gesture of a good will and we’re doing what we can to resolve this case in a manner that works for everyone.

Thomas-Rasset’s attorney, Michael Wilson, said in a telephone interview today that “the record industry was offering a kind of a public statement as a possible supplement so she wouldn’t have to pay the full amount.”

He said the RIAA offered “no specifics.”

“It was kind of a general idea, nothing concrete,” Wilson added. “I would assume it would be something along those lines: anti-piracy and culpability.”

Wilson said that, because “she is pretty opposed” to making a statement, he is exploring the possibility that Thomas-Rasset file for bankruptcy protection to keep the damages award at bay.

This wouldn’t be the first time the RIAA has sought a public-service announcement from a file-sharer.

In 2009, a Los Angeles man was sentenced to two months’ home confinement and a year of probation for uploading nine unreleased tracks of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy to his music site. Federal prosecutors initially sought six months of prison, but Cogill got no time after agreeing to do an RIAA public service announcement that would scare future file sharers straight.

But the RIAA never made Kevin Cogill follow through.

Meantime, Thomas-Rasset’s legal odyssey dates to 2007. The RIAA’s litigation had a tortuous history involving a mistrial and three separate verdicts for the same offense — $222,000, $1.92 million and $1.5 million.

Out of the thousands who were sued, the only other file-sharer to challenge an RIAA lawsuit at trial was Joel Tenenbaum, then a Massachusetts college student, whose case followed Thomas-Rasset’s. A federal appeals court last month upheld a Boston federal jury’s award of $675,000 against him for sharing 30 songs.

Most of the thousands of RIAA file-sharing cases against individuals have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars. In 2008, the RIAA ceased a five-year campaign it had launched to sue individual file sharers and, with the Motion Picture Association of America, has since convinced internet service providers to begin taking punitive action against copyright scofflaws.


Original article by David Kravets at http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/07/riaa-asks-infamous-file-sharer/