Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Friday, 5 October 2007 12:01 UK

Jury penalises music file-sharer

Jammie Thomas
Jammie Thomas was said to have shared more than 1,700 songs

A court in the US has ordered a woman to pay $222,000 (£109,000) in damages for illegally file-sharing music.

The jury ordered Jammie Thomas, 32, from Minnesota, to pay for offering to share 24 specific songs online - a cost of $9,250 per song.

Record companies said she had illegally shared a total of 1,702 songs.

Ms Thomas, who denied the charges, was the first person accused of illegal file-sharing who decided to fight the case in court.

Each year, millions of households illegally share music files, and the music industry takes it as a serious threat to its revenue.

About 26,000 lawsuits have been filed against alleged file-sharers, but most defendants settle privately by paying damages amounting to a few thousand dollars.

Industry defiant

However, contesting the charge and losing will cost Jammie Thomas almost a quarter of a million dollars.

Kazaa screen
Thomas denied using Kazaa to share copyrighted material

Her lawyer, Brian Toder, told the Associated Press that Ms Thomas was reduced to tears by the verdict.

"This is a girl that lives from pay cheque to pay cheque, and now all of a sudden she could get a quarter of her pay cheque garnished for the rest of her life," he said.

The US record industry said investigators located an individual with the screen name "tereastarr@KaZaA", using the Kazaa file-sharing software program.

"This individual was downloading copyrighted sounds recordings from other users of the Kazaa network, and was distributing copyrighted sound recordings stored on her computer to other Kazaa users," the plaintiffs said.

The art form has been traded in for a bottom line
Tavie Meier, Boulder, USA

A spokesman for the record companies said he hoped people would understand the verdict.

Richard Gabriel, a lawyer for the music companies, said the verdict was important.

"This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not okay," he told AP.

Our message is: we don't want to litigate - don't leave yourself exposed to litigation
John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries

He said no decision had yet been made about what the record companies would do, if anything, to pursue collecting the money from Ms Thomas.

John Kennedy, chief executive of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industries, which represents record labels, said they were "reluctant litigators".

"We do everything possible to persuade people not to leave themselves exposed to litigation. We educate, we warn, we even try and settle before a case gets to court."

He said he hoped the fine would prove a deterrent to others.

"Our message is: we don't want to litigate - don't leave yourself exposed to litigation," he added.

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