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RIAA lawyers may have mislead Minnesota judge, corrupting the jury's decision

Jammie Thomas, the Minnesota resident ordered to pay $222,000 to the RIAA last October, may get a second shot at trial due to a controversial – and possibly misleading – jury instruction.

In October, when Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas wrapped up, members of the jury were told that the act of making music available for download was all that was needed to prove that Thomas infringed record labels’ copyrights – attorneys for the RIAA compared this to someone displaying pirate DVDs for sale at a table. The instruction likely cost Thomas her victory and a short while later the jury awarded plaintiffs $222,000 in damages for Thomas’ act of “making available” 24 songs for download.

Now, however, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis now thinks that the “making available” instruction was a mistake. He says that he found a 1993 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that requires “actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords.” An Arizona ruling entered on similar arguments was revoked late last April, he added, and earlier this month a Florida federal court reached the same conclusion.

Neither side in Capitol v. Thomas presented the 1993 decision to him, said Davis. Oral arguments on whether or not a new trial will be held on July 1 in Duluth, Minnesota.

With precedent quickly shifting away from the content industry’s favor, the RIAA doesn’t seem fazed: “If we have to retry the case, we’ll do so without hesitation,” said RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel. Record companies can still prove that Thomas violated copyright, because files found on her computer have the same signatures as known pirated recordings – files that Thomas claims were copied from CDs. Beyond that, says Gabriel, evidence that investigators working for the RIAA were able to download music from her computer is more than sufficient to win a second trial.

“We've been saying all along that it was submitted to the jury on an improper theory,” said attorney and Recording Industry vs. The People co-author Ray Beckerman. “Now the judge recognizes his error and he realizes he was misled by record industry lawyers.”



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RE: Hacked?
By AntiM on 5/16/2008 1:22:13 PM , Rating: 2
The Kazaa shared folder is there for everyone to see and to copy files from, and as far as I know, you can copy files to it as well. It has to make you wonder about the intelligence of these people that are getting caught. Wouldn't a simple firewall prevent this kind of snooping? These people must not have even the most basic of security measures in place.


RE: Hacked?
By Shawn5961 on 5/16/2008 4:09:15 PM , Rating: 2
It's the way these cases always work. You never see someone who has tens of thousands of pirated songs getting sued, because that gives people the mindset of, "Hey, I need to pirate thousands of songs to get in trouble, so downloading the new Britney Spears album is perfectly fine."

It's always the grandparent, the once a month computer user, or the mom that just wanted a song so her daughter could practice for her talent show, that get sued. It's so people see, "Wow, they downloaded three songs and got sued over a hundred thousand dollars, I better not do it."


RE: Hacked?
By mindless1 on 5/16/2008 9:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
No, those are just the ones who did it few enough times to feel they should get away with it, or the exceptional cases that were newsworthy.

I'm not saying they should be fined such an excessive amount, on the contrary if a song is $1 a download it should have a similar penalty. Some might say this doesn't deter but deterrance is not an acceptible avenue through civil proceedings.


RE: Hacked?
By plinkplonk on 5/18/2008 5:23:15 AM , Rating: 2
surely the amount they should pay is the amount the song is worth...(i.e. price of album it is on / number of tracks) rather than "right we reckon this song is worth $30,000 to us so we're gonna make them pay $30,000 for every track they've got"

... no?


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