Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Notorious downloader unable to pay $222K

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MINNEAPOLIS -- A Minnesota woman at the centre of a long-running court fight over the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music said there's still no way she can pay record companies the $222,000 judgment she owes after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal Monday.

The justices did not comment on their decision. Attorneys for Jammie Thomas-Rasset, of Brainerd, argued the amount was excessive.

The music industry filed thousands of lawsuits in the early to mid-2000s against people it accused of downloading music without permission and without paying for it. Almost all the cases settled for about $3,500 apiece. Thomas-Rasset is one of two defendants who refused to pay and went to trial. The other, former Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum, also lost and was ordered to pay $675,000.

The industry initially sued Thomas-Rasset in 2006. Her case has gone through three trials and several appeals. The industry presented evidence that Thomas-Rasset made available over 1,700 songs to other computer users via the file-sharing service Kazaa, though the suit targeted only 24 songs.

"I'm assuming that since they declined to hear the case it's probably done at this point," she said, adding she needed to consult with her attorneys to determine what happens next.

Thomas-Rasset, 35, who works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe tribal government, maintained -- as she has all along -- that she can't afford to pay.

"There's no way that they can collect," she said. "Right now, I get energy assistance because I have four kids. It's just the one income. My husband isn't working. It's not possible for them to collect even if they wanted to. I have no assets."

The Recording Industry Association of America offered to settle for $5,000 when it first sued, and offered to settle for a $25,000 donation to a charity for music industry people in need after her second trial. She refused both times.

"We appreciate the Court's decision and are pleased that the legal case is finally over," the trade group said in a statement. "We've been willing to settle this case from day one and remain willing to do so."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2013 C3

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