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Justice Dept. Defends $1.92 Million RIAA Fine Against Minnesota Mom

August 17, 2009 11:58 AM ET

The Department of Justice has defended the $1.92 million decision against Minnesota mom Jammie Thomas-Rasset for illegally downloading 24 songs off of a peer-to-peer network, according to the Daily Online Examiner. As Rock Daily previously reported, Thomas-Rasset asked for a reduction in the fine after she was sentenced to pay the RIAA $80,000 per song when a Minnesota jury found her guilty in her second trial. Thomas-Rasset's lawyers had been pushing for a third trial, saying the fine of $1.92 million was disproportionate to the amount of damage she had actually done, but the Justice Department agreed with the massive ruling.

"The defendant's suggestion that the actual harm can be measured to the 'tune of $1.29 for each of the 24 songs' ... ignores the potential multiplying effect of peer-to-peer file-sharing," the Justice Department said in legal documents filed last week reinforcing the decision. The papers also mention a 1999 amendment that increased the maximum fine per "infringed work for willful violations" to $150,000, so there is legal precedence for the huge fine against Thomas-Rasset. Lawyers for Thomas-Rasset argued that the $1.92 million fine was unconstitutional, but that too was rejected by the Justice Department.

Also, as CNet points out, one of the RIAA attorneys arguing against Thomas-Rasset during her trial, Donald Verrilli, has since been appointed by President Barack Obama to be associate deputy attorney general of the Justice Department, so Verrilli's influence likely weighed heavy on the Department of Justice.

The RIAA said following the second trial that the fully don't expect Thomas-Rasset to be able to pay the $1.92 million sentence and that they'd be willing to reach a settlement with the Minnesota mom. In the initial 2007 trial against Thomas-Rasset, a jury found her guilty and sentenced her to a $222,000 fine. An error in jury instructions resulted in the second trial and the even bigger $1.92 million fine.

Richard Marx, one of the artists whose music was downloaded by either Thomas-Rasset's children or then-boyfriend, has spoken out against the RIAA fine, saying he was "ashamed" his name was being linked to the excessive fee. "Now we have a 'judgment' in a case of illegal downloading, and it seems to me, especially in these extremely volatile economic times, that holding Ms. Thomas-Rasset accountable for the continuing daily actions of hundreds of thousands of people is, at best, misguided and at worst, farcical," Marx wrote in June.

Related Stories:
Minnesota Mom Asks for Reduction of $1.92 Million Downloading Fine
Richard Marx "Ashamed" He's Linked To $1.92 Million RIAA Fine Against Minnesota Mom
Minnesota Mom Hit With $1.92 Million Fine For Illegal File Sharing

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