Cyberpunk Review » Minnesota mother becomes RIAA’s first victim.

October 7, 2007

Minnesota mother becomes RIAA’s first victim.


Jammie Thomas, found liable of “copyright infringement” by a federal jury. The RIAA must be proud of themselves.

First blood is drawn. A federal jury sided with the RIAA and found single mother Jammie Thomas liable of “piracy” to the tune of $222K US (report from Wired). Mrs. Thomas could have been tagged with as much as $3.6M or as little as $18K, all for only 24 of the 1700 files she was reportedly sharing via Kazza (here’s the “playlist” if you’re curious).

Jammie Thomas is one of some 20,000 individuals the RIAA has sued in the past few years for “piracy.” So far, most have settled out of court and some were dismissed outright, but Jammie decided to challenge the zealot organization and became the first to actually go to trial. The jury’s decision now gives the RIAA, and possibly the MPAA, “ammo” to persecute… I mean, pursue other individual file sharers:

“This is what can happen if you don’t settle,” RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel told reporters outside the courthouse. “I think we have sent a message we are willing to go to trial.”

On the positive side, the RIAA can’t equate file sharing to hacking. Or can they?…


We’re the RIAA. We don’t need no stinkin’ evidence, bitch! U.S. District Judge Michael Davis presided over the case and was asked by jurors about the minimum amount Mrs. Thomas could be liable for a “willful” file sharing incident, since their instruction form left that information off. There were other signs that the case would go the RIAA’s way:

In proving liability, the industry did not have to demonstrate that the defendant’s computer had a file-sharing program installed at the time that they inspected her hard drive. And the RIAA did not have to show that the defendant was at the keyboard when RIAA investigators accessed Thomas’ share folder.

Also, the judge in the case ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files.

In other words, all the RIAA had to show was that the files being shared were on her computer when they traced and hacked into it. No user presence or knowledge that file sharing was going on with his/her system was needed to be proven.


Another version of the truth. Jammie Thomas chose to challenge the RIAA in court because “I wasn’t going to pay for something I didn’t do.” She blames hackers for the piracy:

“I want people to know that they are being sued based on hacked, spoofed computers. They should still fight back in these cases.”

Given the current state of hacking technology, her claim may not be far off. After all, if the US government can hack systems to plant spyware, who knows what black-hats… or the RIAA… can plant on your system without your knowledge. For all we know, the RIAA themselves may have planted the music files on her computer just to make someone an example of their legal hijacking capabilities (Just a conspiracy theory… for now). Also consider that the RIAA’s movie-protection-racket clone the MPAA allegedly hired a hacker to go after their adversaries.

Unfortunately, the jury didn’t buy it… maybe because they were bought by the RIAA (Another conspiracy theory). Also (race card alert), Mrs. Thomas is a single mother of two and a Native American woman who works as an administrator at a local tribe. Twist that around anyway you see fit.


Payback is going to be a bitch. While some see the Minnesota ruling a victory for corporate music and the Record Industry Gestapo, the RIAA may have just painted a big bullseye on their backs. Last month’s leak of memos from anti-P2P allies MediaDefender may only be the tip of a huge iceberg that will sink the titanic industry group and its members, as the record labels and the RIAA itself will now be directly targeted for future hacks.

Additionally, suing your potential customer base makes for bad public relations. That only fuels the anti-corporate boycott-fires that are already simmering in people who already see the RIAA as corporate law Neanderthals; Cavemen in suits with nothing better to do than hit people over the head with lawsuits. Does the RIAA realize how much taxpayer money is wasted on such trials, where it could have been better spent on schools and infrastructure? Not only that, this ruling will only cause more piracy, not less, as a show of contempt for the industry and group and the legal system they’ve corrupted.


Speaking of payback, one question that the RIAA may never answer is: How much of that $222K US will the infringed artists get?

Most likely answer: JACK SHIT. That money will only go right into the pockets of the industry execs and the shysters, for what they call “legal fees,” to fuel the anti-file-sharing lawsuit machinery. Take Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor’s answer to Australia’s Herald Sun when they asked why his group’s latest album, Year Zero, cost more than other albums:

Herald Sun: Where does that extra $10 on your album go?

Trent: That money’s not going into my pocket, I can promise you that. It’s just these guys who have f—ed themselves out of a job essentially, that now take it out on ripping off the public. I’ve got a battle where I’m trying to put out quality material that matters and I’ve got fans that feel it’s their right to steal it and I’ve got a company that’s so bureaucratic and clumsy and ignorant and behind the times they don’t know what to do, so they rip the people off.

Given the music industry’s corporate fuck-everyone-over-to-make-a-profit mentality, and the RIAA’s cluelessnes during the Year Zero ARG campaign, there’s little wonder why Trent finally let loose against the industry during a tour stop in Australia:

“Has the price come down? … Well you know what that means. Steal it. Steal away. Steal, steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealing. Because one way or another these mother fuckers will get it through their head that they’re ripping people off and that’s not right.”

Don’t worry, Trent. The RIAA has just given us more than enough reason to steal.


UPDATE (08-Oct-2007): Word from Wired now says Jammie Thomas will appeal the ruling on the grounds of faulty jury instructions:

Specifically, it’s Jury Instruction No. 15, here in full: “The act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network, without license from the copyright owners, violates the copyright owners’ exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown.”

In short, she’s appealing the concept that it was too easy for jurors to find that she infringed. Jurors were instructed to find liability if they found she had an open Kazaa share-file folder with music in it available to others, regardless of whether any downloading occurred.

Normally in the US Justice system, the plaintiff (the RIAA in this case) must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant (Mrs. Thomas) committed the crime, usually through lab analyzes of physical evidence and eyewitness testimonies, or a confession from the defendant. Here, it seems only an intent is present… and even that seems questionable given RIAA tactics and history. The instruction sounds like the jury can only find Mrs. Thomas guilty.

Example: Someone wants to kill president Bush (doesn’t everyone?). That person also owns a gun. Is that person automatically guilty of attempted murder of a president? That connection is just stupid; That person would actually need to take a shot at Duh’bya with the gun, and then the government would need to bring that person to trial and prove he/she did shoot.

This sounds like it’s going to go all the way to the US Supreme Court, where the instruction… and the RIAA… will face the ultimate equalizer of justice: The Constitution. By the way things are shaping up, Mrs. Thomas should be vindicated. Then again, stranger things have happened before.


October 7, 2007

Wiggett said:

spewin’ I missed the NIN concert, glad RIAA doesn’t get to me here in Australia… yet.

October 8, 2007

Illusive Mind said:

The RIAA doesn’t seem to understand that there is no way to put the cork back in the technology bottle. Their best encryption will required tailor make hardware to play and even then an army of crackers will be up to the challenge.

Given that, if they embraced internet distribution completely they would make far more money by volume sales.

Albums are particularly expensive in Australia for some reason. And we have gotten jerked around with television programming that Australia leads the world in TV show piracy.

caprison said:

Typical of large corps. If you can’t win by being competitive.. have it legislated so you do win. I feel sorry for the lady that tried to stand up to that giant. Guaranteed that you will hear nothing telling her side in the corporate media complex.

Hear is a fun question. What if an illegal alien came over to the U.S. and illegally downloaded music? I’d love to see that paradox played out in the courts.

FJU said:

this makes radiohead’s decision to pay as you go for In Rainbows later this week even more important. Radiohead basically took a hit (even though we know they make MOST of their money from touring) to their own wallets, being artists without a record deal. of course, not every band has the cache of radiohead and few could afford to just give away their music (how many people are paying more than 1GBP for that?), but i love the point they are making. hopefully this will affect negotiations with BMI or whoever they sign with, in that the music will already be available and copyrighted by the BAND, not the record label.

October 10, 2007

eric-the-ded said:

Sort of related news.

This is from -

08 October 2007: Big News
Hello everyone. I’ve waited a LONG time to be able to make the
following announcement: as of right now Nine Inch Nails is a totally
free agent, free of any recording contract with any label. I have
been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the
business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very
different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a
direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate.
Look for some announcements in the near future regarding 2008.
Exciting times, indeed.

posted by Trent Reznor at 10:45 AM.

I think we can expect more “leaks” from young Trent in the near future.

October 11, 2007

ONI said:

I don’t know how to email whoever runs this site so im just posting this here. i found this news artical you might consider a bit cyberpunkish seeing as how it deals with robots and the whole big brother concept

Mr. Roboto said:

Thx for the heads-up, ONI, but I’ve already blogged it in the forums.

November 3, 2007

Deep_Logic said:

Kill a lawyer a day to keep the corporate governance away..just kidding.

November 7, 2007

Adam Daub said:

No evidence, no trial. In this whole fucked up case, why do we even have courts?

RIAA can seriously go fuck themselves.

April 16, 2008

tom said:

the best defense might be that u had no file sharing program running to the best of ur knolage and that ur computer was infected with a rouge viruses of some sort ranging from a rouge p2p worm or a proxy Trojan and that it was not u or any 1 u know this works since they go to the most likely target the first ip they come across and never bother check other sources and wait to long for a proper discovery to take place ware u could have ur computer analyzed for such a virus in ur defense

so unless they have a time machine they will lose this case

October 14, 2009

peermathe said:

my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

October 30, 2010

Seasons said:

Maybe you could change the webpage subject title Cyberpunk Review » Minnesota mother becomes RIAA’s first victim. to something more generic for your blog post you make. I loved the post still.

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