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$5,000 could have settled music file-sharing case

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jammie Thomas-Rasset testified Tuesday in U.S. District Court that she could have settled her case with the Recording Industry of America by paying the record companies $5,000.

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The RIAA accuses her of downloading and distributing 24 copyrighted recordings on the KaZaA peer-to-peer file-sharing network. But as she said 20 months ago in Duluth, in the first such case to go to trial in the nation, the Brainerd woman testified again Tuesday that she didn't use KaZaA and had never heard of it at the time the recording industry claims she infringed its copyrights.

A Duluth jury in 2007 found Thomas-Rasset liable for $222,000 in damages for willfully committing copyright infringement, but U.S. District Judge Michael Davis granted the defendant a retrial, ruling he had given jurors an erroneous instruction of law.

After jury selection and opening statements Monday, Thomas-Rasset was called to testify Tuesday.

The record companies' attorney, Timothy Reynolds of Denver, established that Thomas-Rasset had downloaded music before and that she is proficient in using several computer applications.

The 32-year-old defendant and married mother of four has a bachelor's degree in business administration and marketing from St. Cloud State University and works for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians.

Computer security experts and Internet providers testified Monday that the downloaded music can be traced to Thomas-Rasset's home computer. The defendant admitted that her home computer is password protected and no one else had access to her password.

But defense attorneys Kiwi Camara and Joe Sibley of Houston say there's no evidence that Thomas-Rasset distributed any songs. They told Davis they would wait to question their client until the defense presents its case in chief, perhaps today.

The recording companies say they own or control exclusive rights to 24 songs that Thomas-Rasset allegedly downloaded and distributed.

Potential damages for non-willful copyright infringement range from $750 to $30,000 for each song. In the case of willful infringement, the court may increase the award to as much as $150,000 per infringement. Camara told jurors in his opening statement that the plaintiffs are asking for more than $3 million in damages.

Thomas-Rasset denies any wrongdoing.

Outside the courtroom, Thomas-Rasset said her mother-in-law lives in a Twin Cities suburb and she has been able to stay with her. The defendant was text-messaging one of her four sons during the morning recess.

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