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Record Labels Prevail in File Sharing Suit; Defendant Ordered to Pay $220,000

The record labels have prevailed in the first U.S. file-sharing lawsuit to go to trial. The defendant, Minnesota resident Jammie Thomas, was order to pay a $220,000 fine, based on 24 tracks at $9,250 each. No word yet on whether an appeal is planned, as she and her lawyer declined comment after the verdict, according to the AP. Several of the major record labels were involved in the suit, including Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.

The verdict isn’t likely to stem file sharing, as the RIAA would hope, but as Wired points out, the verdict helps establish key precedents: “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. That was a big bone of contention that U.S. District Judge Michael Davis settled in favor of the industry.”

This outcome seemed rather likely to observers. As policy analyst and RIAA critic Tim Lee pointed out before the verdict, the facts in this case were fairly clear cut — hence the jury’s short deliberation. As the verdict demonstrates, this was not the best time to take a stand against the RIAA’s legal strategy.

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