One of the side issues of the Jammie Thomas controversy is whether someone may have steered her into taking on the recording industry.
The question came up last week shortly after Thomas was ordered by a federal jury to pay the record industry more than $220,000 for violating copyright law. Why would a 30-year-old mother of two, who makes $36,000 a year, want to go toe-to-toe with the recording industry, asks Chris Castle, an attorney, former music executive and owner of a small record label.
Castle, who routinely appears at conferences to debate the morality and legality of file sharing, is skeptical that Thomas, who said this week she intends to appeal the jury's decision, decided all by herself to confront the music sector. He suspects she is being used by anti-copyright proponents in a public-relations struggle against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
"The situation makes you wonder why she went through all this," Castle said. "Particularly because she is a person of little means, and knows what the potential downside is. It's a little bit amazing."
Last week, Castle pointed a finger at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that advocates for the rights of Internet users, and other notable figures who have spoken out against copyright law. He accused them of trying to turn Thomas into the "Joan of Arc of illegal downloading." He said that such a strategy is unfair because it could lead to Thomas' financial downfall.
After reading Castle's comments, Thomas wanted a chance to reply.
"My comment to him is that this was all my decision," she said. "From the get go, my attorney has pointed out to me what could happen. We knew (losing the copyright trial) was a possibility. I am no puppet. That he is insinuating that I'm being led around is very insulting to me. I refused to settle with the RIAA because I didn't do anything wrong."
Cindy Cohn, EFF's legal director also denied that anyone associated with that organization tried to influence Thomas. But EFF is also planning to support Thomas' appeal by filing a friend-of-the-court brief, according to a story in Wired.com
Should Thomas lose her appeal, she may not face a $220,000 bill alone. Supporters have begun sending her donations at freejammie.com.