RIAA finally gets its pound of Jammie Thomas’ flesh

“The United States Supreme Court has denied certiorari in Jammie Thomas’s case, Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset.

This means that the award of $222,000, for downloading 24 files, stands.”

It’s a simple enough statement,  but it represents one of the most egregious travesties of justice  of the many perpetrated  by the corporate music industry cartels.

The statement quoted at the beginning appears on the blog of my friend, lawyer Ray Beckerman. It’s called Recording Industry vs The People  and it’s the only compilation I know of  which includes chapter and verse on the continuing efforts of the corporate music industry  to  shanghai its own customers, calling them criminals and thieves.

These days,  copyright infringements (called ‘violations’ by the many  members of the copyright scavenging fraternities)  are big business  with efforts by  a US movie company  to milk the copyright goat as one of the most recent examples.

In an equally simple post,  “The Supreme Court has turned away an appeal from a Minnesota woman who has been ordered to pay record companies $222,000 for the unauthorized downloading of copyrighted music,” says the Associated Press adding:

“The justices didn’t comment Monday in letting stand the judgment against Jammie Thomas-Rasset of Brainerd, Minn. She claimed in court papers that the ordered payment was excessive.

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

It’s worth noting  that far from   filling thousands of lawsuits, the RIAA issued  tens of thousands  of subpoenas which, thanks to the ever obliging and gullible  mainstream media, were interpreted as ‘prosecutions’.  However, they  were  designed  with only one thing in mind:  to get people into court to  terrorise  them into ‘settling’  Big Music’s  specious  copyright infringement claims.

Successfully ‘prosecuted’

It’s standard RIAA rhetoric to imply many thousands of people across America have been successfully ‘prosecuted’ for the non-crime of file sharing.

And the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case was a farce from beginning to end.

She was accused of stealing something which was never stolen, lying to protect her family, and in effect depriving the multi-billion-dollar corporate record labels of $1.92 million by sharing 24 copyrighted songs online.

So what were all these songs said by the courts and Big Music  to be worth almost a quarter of a million dollars?

Aerosmith Cryin’ 1993
Bryan Adams Somebody 1984
Def Leppard Pour Some Sugar on Me 1988
Destiny’s Child Bills, Bills, Bills 1999
Gloria Estefan Rhythm Is Gonna Get You 1987
Gloria Estefan Here We Are 1989
Gloria Estefan Coming Out of the Dark 1991
Goo Goo Dolls Iris 1998
Green Day Basket Case 1994
Guns N’ Roses Welcome to the Jungle 1987
Guns N’ Roses November Rain 1992
Janet Jackson Let’s Wait Awhile 1987
Journey Don’t Stop Believin’ 1981
Journey Faithfully 1983
Linkin Park One Step Closer 2000
No Doubt Different People 1995
No Doubt Bathwater 2000
No Doubt Hella Good 2001
Reba McEntire One Honest Heart 1998
Richard Marx Now and Forever 1994
Sarah McLachlan Possession 1993
Sarah McLachlan Building a Mystery 1998
Sheryl Crow Run Baby Run 1993
Vanessa Williams Save the Best for Last 1992

How was the number arrived at? A jury of 12 good people, and true, somehow arrived at the incredible conclusion each of the songs in dispute was worth $80,000, and that Jammie was liable for them.

Jammie became the RIAA poster child of what can happen to people who refuse to toe the corporate line.

But the chances of any one person becoming a victim of the RIAA, or any of the other corporate music extortion units around the world, is so tiny as to be nonexistent.

However,  by dint of a massively expensive, and ongoing, mainstream media misinformation blitz, Vivendi Universal (France), Sony (Japan), EMI (Britain), and Warner Music (US) have been able to create a climate of terror under which people believe they’re a hairs-breadth away from being hauled into court if they dare to share music online.

As to the  $3500  settlements, during the course of the entire RIAA, six-year sue ‘em all campaign, only 18,000 were ‘contacted,’ and fewer than a quarter actually ‘settled, ‘ says Recording Industry vs The People.

The labels have have used the issuance of subpoenas to imply some 40,000 or so Americans, including children, have been successfully sued as copyright infringers, and that the vast bulk of them have agreed to ‘settle’ out-of-court for sums usually starting at around $3,000 per person, and rising if they resist.

Half of those were American students, frightened into paying up thanks, largely, to the fact college staff acted as willing copyright enforcers.

And of the 18,000,  fewer than half — 7,000 — resulted in a lawsuit.

But initially, the RIAA only managed to get a single case — that of Jammie Thomas-Rasset — into a court-room, and even that resulted in a mistrial.

Only 18,000? And only 4,000 gave in to RIAA extortion?

Jamie2 I was one of the first journalists  to highlight the horror story of a First Nations mother’s fight with the corporate music industry cartels.

Back in 2009,  beneath the picture  on the right I wrote »»»

In just five days, the multi-billion-dollar members of the international record label club will once again try to hustle a judge and jury into believing Jammie Thomas-Rasset — pictured here holding nine-month-old baby Tarent — is a criminal and thief, a,  ‘massive online distributor’ of copyrighted corporate music.

With their Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as a front, sub-units of Vivendi Universal (France), Sony (Japan), EMI (Britain), and Warner Music (US) have already put Jammie and her family through hell.

First, they used the mainstream media to have her publicly tried, and found guilty, of the non-existent crime of illegal file sharing.

Then, she and her family had to endure another trial, this time before a judge and jury, at the end of which she was ordered to pay the corporate music industry almost a quarter of a million dollars in ‘damages’.

But the only suggestion Jammie had ever downloaded, or shared music on discredited p2p file sharing application Kazaa, came from MediaSentry, an equally discredited company used by the RIAA (and later fired by the RIAA) to collect ‘evidence’.

Soon after the case was over, however, judge Michael Davis, who’d heard it, declared a mistrial, admitting he`d committed a, manifest error of law by telling the jury the, “act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network, without licensefrom the copyright owners, violates the copyright owners` exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown.

Now, next Monday, because the two sides failed to reach a settlement agreement, Jammie and her lawyer, Kiwi K.A.D. Camara, will be standing alone against the RIAA legal teams.

There’s no way of telling exactly how much the Big 4 labels and their RIAA have already spent on the case, but it’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. And now they’ll be spending even more as they try to gull the judge and jury into ruling against Jammie for a second time, saying she’s a conscienceless ‘violator’ of corporate copyrights who, along with others of her ilk, are steadily and routinely depriving honest, but hard-pressed, music industry companies of their rightful earnings.

They claim files shared equal sales lost, although a number of authoritative academic and other studies say this isn’t so, and that file sharing is in fact an invaluable form of viral advertising.

As US judge James P. Jones wrote »»»

Customers who download music and movies for free would not necessarily spend money to acquire the same product.

However, this isn’t about money: it’s about circumventing any form of competition and gaining complete control of the Internet as the primary vehicle for distributing, marketing, advertising and selling corporate digital ‘product’ online.

Who, ask the lawyers and the Big 4 executives they advise, cares about the customers — the people who make it all happen?

They’ll sit by and silently watch it happen. Like they always do.

innocent men, women and children

While the lawyers and hangers-on working for the RIAA happily clock up thousands of billable hours, Jamie Thomas-Rasset tries to get on with her life.

The labels and their RIAA  have spent a fortune trying to paint a picture of her as someone who stole, and who then illegally distributed, copyrighted music files.

However, with file sharing, no money changes hands and no one is deprived permanently, or otherwise, of something he or she used to own.

The RIAA lawyers say she’s a thief. But she’s nothing of the kind. Rather, she’s a hard-working mother who during the day is the Brownfield coordinator of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians in Minnesota. She’s responsible for administering a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency for her tribe to redevelop contaminated properties.

She’s also in charge of housing and land acquisitions for the Band’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment

“I try to focus on the day to day of life instead of the potential outcomes,” she says.  “I know, win lose or draw, it won’t be over for a long time. So I just hunker down for the long haul and hold on for the ride.”

Going clockwise, other than baby Tarent, the kids in the picture are Christian, her four-year-old stepson, Tyler, who’ll be 15 next month, and Triston, who’ll be 13 in August.

Jammie and her husband, Chad (“Chad Thomas-Rasset, we both hyphenated”) were married in February. He’s at home, taking care of the boys so Jammie can get on with her job without having to worry about the younger two in daycare.

“What’s it like, having this hanging over your head,” I asked Jammie.

“Actually, the case from day to day is sort of like the feeling you have something really important to do, yet you’re not quite there yet to do it,” she said, going on »»»

“The stress of the case is always there, but it’s manageable most days.

We still get up every morning, the boys go to school, or they did until summer break started this week, I still go to work, Chaddie, my husband still takes care of the babies.  We have a routine and fortunately, the case doesn’t really disrupt that, at least for the most part.

But lately, stress level has hit its maximum load and although I hate admitting it, a constant panicky feeling has taken hold.

I understand the consequences of my case, not just for me, but for everyone else being sued by the RIAA, and sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming.

Now, with the trial starting next week, I find it hard to concentrate on much else.

I constantly worry “maybe if we do this” or “maybe we should do that”, then I have to slow down, take a breath and ask myself,e “what’s the worst that could happen?”

But the worst, in my opinion, has already happened.

“Positive thinking and reassurance a major thing that gets us through this ordeal,” says Chad.

“When I got a subpoena to testify in court my first thought was, ‘Who’s gonna watch the kids?’

“But  I was happy and very excited about the lawyers that stepped up to take over.  They have no idea the burden they have relieved from this family.”

Innocent, and very ordinary, men, women and children

For the RIAA crews, leaving thousands of American families in fear is just a job, and one they’re paid very handsomely indeed to perform.

They go home at night, play with their children, pat the dog, and rest easy.

For their victims, though, it’s pain, nonstop, tears, sleepless nights, and for some, even thoughts of suicide.

Jammie, and Tanya Andersen, and Patti Santangelo, and Rae-Jay Schwartz and Marie Lindor are only five of the people brutalised by RIAA lawyers in what are called courts of law.

But every single one of the 40,000 people who have received RIAA subpoenas has sat back in shock, wondering how they can possibly take on a hugely wealthy Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music with their immense legal, financial and political resources?

The answer is: they can’t, and the people who run, and who work for, the RIAA such as it’s bosses, Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman, and Cara Duckworth and Jonathan Lamy, know it as they accuse their victims of stealing, when nothing’s been stolen, of being criminals, when no crime has been committed, of having caused misery to record industry workers, when the people behind the ‘trade’ association are wholly to blame.

Jammie is just one of the completely innocent, and very ordinary, men, women and children across America whose lives have been made almost unbearable by threats of law suits and fines they’d never be able to pay.

However, they’re not alone.

With every passing day, more and more people open Net accounts and log on to become part of the huge, ever-growing, online communities who by-pass the traditional media, acting as their own sources of news and information.

Once upon a time, Big Music had everything its own way.

But not any more.

Also see: RIAA v. The People: Five Years Later

And …

Jammie Thomas v RIAA digest

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

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