Downloaded Music Trial Begins

Tuesday, October 2nd 2007, 11:36 am
By: News On 6

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) _An amateur musician and 11 other jurors were seated Tuesday in the trial of Jammie Thomas, accused by the recording industry of sharing music online in violation of copyrights.

Thomas, a 30-year-old mother of two, is the first of 26,000 people sued by the industry whose case has gone to trial. An industry group and three recording companies claim she illegally offered 1,702 songs for free on a file-sharing network.

Her trial offers the first chance for both sides in the debate over online music sharing to show a jury its version of the facts. Opening statements were expected Tuesday morning.

Her lawyer says the record companies haven't even proven that Thomas, who lives near Brainerd, Minn., and works for the Department of Natural Resources of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, shared the songs.

Most of the 26,000 people the record industry group has sued have settled by paying a few thousand dollars.

``We think that speaks to the clarity of the law here,'' said Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America.

But lawyers for the defendants say they've settled because trials cost tens of thousands of dollars. Thomas's lawyer, Brian Toder, said she was determined to fight. He declined to make her available for an interview.

``She came into my office and was willing to pay a retainer of pretty much what they wanted to settle for,'' he said. ``And if someone's willing to pay a lawyer rather than pay to make it go away, that says a lot.''

There have been no claims that either of Thomas' children ages 11 and 13 were involved in music sharing.

Thomas is at risk for a judgment of more than $1.2 million. The recording association is seeking damages set under federal law, of $750 to $30,000 for each alleged copyright violation.

``We repeatedly offer out-of-court settlements far less than what the law allows,'' Lamy said. The lawsuits aim to ``communicate that there are consequences for breaking the law and encourage fans to turn to legal online services.''

Jury selection starts Tuesday in Duluth, Minn., and opening statements are expected the same day.