Brainerd earned a mention in Rolling Stone and Spin this fall, but not because the next big band came from here. It was because a local music fan, Jammie Thomas, downloaded a few songs.
Thomas, 30, lost her legal battle on Oct. 4 when, after a three-day civil trial at the U.S. District Court in Duluth, a federal jury ordered her to pay record companies $220,000 for sharing 24 copyrighted songs online. It was the first time such a case had gone to trial; Thomas is appealing the verdict.
The case is a sizable tremor in the rocky shift to the all-digital method of purchasing and listening to music - pundits say the CD will soon be a dinosaur, although many fans still enjoy the tangible feeling of holding music in their hands.
The verdict could lead to soured relations between major labels and consumers - one might ask if the penalty fits the situation when Thomas is ordered to pay $220,000 for stealing about $24 worth of music (online services such as iTunes sell singles for $1 apiece).
In October, Brainerd resident Jammie Thomas discussed the outcome of a lawsuit in which six recording companies accused her of illegally downloading and sharing music over the Internet. A federal jury awarded the record companies $220,000, but Thomas plans to appeal.
Brainerd Dispatch/Clint Wood
The case certainly reveals a disconnect between the big companies and the little guys who just want to get their music out there. Almost every up-and-coming band now posts their songs for free on MySpace. And even the big boys haven't forgotten why they got into music in the first place: In 2007, Radiohead released its new album online for whatever fans wanted to pay, starting at $0.
Thomas doesn't regret going to trial.
"I could have easily settled and paid them the $5,000 they wanted," she told the Dispatch in October. "But on the other hand, I couldn't pay them for something I didn't do. In my mind it wasn't right for them to even ask me to."
Thomas's case will reverberate through the industry for years to come.
JOHN HANSEN may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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