A federal jury Thursday found a 32-year-old Minnesota woman guilty of illegally downloading music from the Internet and fined her $80,000 each -- a total of $1.9 million -- for 24 songs.
Jammie Thomas-Rasset's case was the first such copyright infringement case to go to trial in the United States, her attorney said.
Illegal downloads of musical files will cost a Minnesota woman $1.9 million, a jury has decided.
Attorney Joe Sibley said that his client was shocked at the fine, noting that the price tag on the songs she downloaded was 99 cents.
She plans to appeal, he said.
Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America, said the RIAA was "pleased that the jury agreed with the evidence and found the defendant liable."
"We appreciate the jury's service and that they take this as seriously as we do," she said.
Thomas-Rasset downloaded work by artists such as No Doubt, Linkin Park, Gloria Estefan and Sheryl Crow.
This was the second trial for Thomas-Rasset. The judge ordered a retrial in 2007 after there was an error in the wording of jury instructions. The fines jumped considerably from the first trial, which granted just $220,000 to the recording companies. Thomas-Rasset is married with four children and works for an Indian tribe in Minnesota.
Buy a 50-inch high-definition TV for your kid. Plug it in, and hand him the remote control. Then say, "If you turn this on and watch the picture, you're going to be fined millions of dollars. You make $7.25 per hour at Taco Bell? Too bad."
That's the fine predicament that the dearly beloved Recording Industry Association of America finds itself in these days. Everybody knows it's wrong to download music for which you haven't paid. The poor, suffering artists deserve to eat, same as your taco-stuffing kid, and, by God, the fat cats at the big labels deserve their 90% of the cut, too, I suppose. But try explaining to your taco-stuffing kid, who also happens to have iTunes, and a flash drive, and friends in the dorm who have iTunes, and who has somehow inexplicably ended up with 20,000 songs on the ol' laptop, that it's a bad idea to download music for free. What was that rationale, again?
"Just don't do it," you tell them. "Put down that remote control. Pay no attention to that big shiny screen, or that Power button."
Given the current exigencies -- the presence of the big screen, the remote control in hand, the power most definitely being ON -- it's getting increasingly difficult to convince anyone that they shouldn't press that magic button. I know a lot of musicians. And I sympathize with their predicament, really I do. I honestly believe that they deserve to make a living doing what they do best. But perhaps, dear RIAA, it's time to rethink what "making a living" might look like. And perhaps you might earn just a smidgen more sympathy if you didn't sue some poor social worker for $1.9 million for downloading 24 songs. That's $950,000 per album. Must be nice songs.
Changes in technology have always driven the market. New ways of doing business are created. Old ways of doing business fall by the wayside. Anybody bought a set of Encylopedia Britannicas or an 8-track tape player lately? The smart musicians and the smart music labels have already figured this out. They're promoting the music online, offering complimentary tracks for download, marketing new music in unconventional and creative ways. And, astoundingly enough, in spite of the dire warnings that the sky is falling, there are still many musicians who are able to earn a more-than-comfortable living. But as long as the RIAA is calling the shots, there will still be those proponents of the equivalent of hard-bound encyclopedias and 8-track tapes, ready to sue the shit out of any poor schlep who dares to push the magic button and listen to the pretty sounds.
I love music. And I love musicians. But I can't help hoping that this is the last hurrah of a dying music industry. Some things deserve to die. The RIAA is one of them.
 Disclaimer: "Kid" in this case is purely hypothetical. Yes, I have kids. They don't work at Taco Bell.