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Minnesota Woman Ordered to Pay $222,000 in Music Piracy Case

Appeals court rules on RIAA lawsuit involving 24 songs

Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images
September 12, 2012 8:35 AM ET

A federal court has reinstated a $222,000 damages award against a Minneosta woman accused of illegally downloading 24 songs, Reuters reports, handing the music industry a victory in a case stretching past its sixth year.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota, rejected Jammie Thomas-Rasset's argument that the fine – $9,250 per song – was excessive and violated her due process rights under the Constitution. She has said her ex-boyfriend or two young sons were probably responsible for downloading the songs.

The court's decision was the latest step in the music industry's lengthy battle against Thomas-Rasset. She was one of 18,000 people the Recording Industry Association of America sued between 2003-2008 in an attempt to discourage people from downloading songs from filesharing sites like Kazaa. Although the RIAA had initially accused Thomas-Rasset of downloading more than 1,700 tracks, the industry group sued her on behalf of six record labels in 2006 over two dozen songs.

She lost her first trial in district court in 2007 and was ordered to pay $222,000, though the verdict was thrown out over faulty jury instruction. The jury in her second trial awarded the record labels $1.92 million in damages, an amount the court reduced to $54,000.

The record companies exercised their right to a new trial and won $1.5 million from a third jury, an amount the court again lowered to $54,000. The labels appealed, and a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit unanimously reinstated the original $222,000 fine from her first trial.

Thomas-Rasset's lawyer called the judgment "punitive" and said he would likely appeal the case to the Supreme Court. The RIAA applauded the decision, saying it was "looking forward to putting this case behind us."

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