Jammie Thomas is a 30 year old Brainerd woman, a single mom of two, and now a pioneer, the first of 26 thousand people to take on the music industry in court, fighting charges she illegally took and shared more than 1,700 copyrighted songs.
"I did not download any music," Thomas said today outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Duluth. "I did not download or upload any music, period."
But the record labels insist Thomas did, charging she used a file sharing program called Kazaa to download music she didn't pay for. People like her, say record executives, are killing the music industry.
"Make no mistake, it is stealing," said Kenny Ornberg, a Grammys board member.
Stealing, says Ornberg, from young, struggling artists. Ornberg says free downloads cheat musicians out of millions of dollars, though he says they also promote singers who don't always get airtime.
"Without the help of radio they're exposing a lot of artists in a very rapid manner," Ornberg said. "It's actually helping them in the long run."
And may be hurting record labels, which some experts say are only getting bad publicity by going after downloaders. Many, like Thomas, have been regular, relatable people, and targeting them could be bad PR, especially if they lose.
"In the end it's the recording industry's job to prove she did it," said William McGeveran, associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Law. "And that may not be as easy as it sounds."
Whatever the outcome, the stakes are huge, not only with the possible million dollar fines, but also for any future lawsuits. The Thomas case could determine whether record labels will fight other downloaders, and whether they will fight back.
"It's still not easy to win one of these lawsuits," McGeveran said. "So it still would not be pleasant thing to end up as one of these defendants."
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)