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File-sharing trial wraps up testimony

Alex Ebert
Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

MINNEAPOLIS — Jammie Thomas-Rasset returned to the witness stand Wednesday and said that she did not download more than 1,700 songs, but her children or ex-boyfriend may have.

Thomas-Rasset was the last to testify Wednesday in her unprecedented file-sharing case in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Recording companies are suing the Brainerd, Minn., mother of four for up to $3.6 million for copyright infringement.

Of more than 30,000 suits brought by the recording industry against file-sharers, Thomas-Rasset's is the only one to go to a jury trial. She was found liable for copyright infringement in 2007, but U.S. District Judge Michael Davis granted a retrial because he had given incorrect instructions to the jury.

On the stand Wednesday, she again argued that she didn't download and distribute music over Kazaa, an online file-sharing network.

The record companies produced evidence they say proves someone in her home is liable for infringement. But Thomas-Rasset said she had more than 240 CDs at the time she was sued, to show that she bought rather than downloaded music.

She said she doesn't like many of the artists and songs that recording companies are suing her for, but her children and ex-boyfriend do.

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) attorney asked why in previous instances, two depositions and another jury trial, she had never divulged this possibility before.

"I'm not going to point a finger at them just so you stop going after me," she said. She also said while it's possible they could have downloaded the songs, she doesn't believe they did.

The defense pointed out that the letter sent by the RIAA attorneys before her first trial said the recording companies could sue those under 18, which has happened in several law suits in the RIAA's campaign against suspected file-sharers. Thomas-Rasset has four children under 18, two of whom could plausibly have been found liable.

Before the plaintiff and defense rested Wednesday, several recording company lawyers were brought to the stand to play some of the songs Thomas-Rasset is accused of stealing; playing the MP3 version, and the commercial version through the court sound system to demonstrate the two are practically identical.

Under cross-examination, JoAn Cho, an attorney for UMG and Interscope Records, said the lawsuit was "reasonable," up to the full extent of the law.

"This case is reasonable because this is our livelihood," she said. "In my opinion this is a situation where we want to exercise our rights and make people do the right thing."

The plaintiff and defense will give their closing statements Thursday.

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