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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 An Arizona ruling entered on similar arguments was revoked late last April, he added, and earlier this month a Florida federal court reached the same conclusion.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: Haha
By Oregonian2 on 5/16/2008 1:48:11 PM , Rating: 2
As I recall, she wasn't "gotten" for downloading songs. She was "gotten" for making them available for uploading even though it wasn't even attempted to be shown that any were uploaded. Certainly she should be found guilty of copyright infringement -- but that which she was found guilty of is the same as leaving a CD on your car seat with the door unlocked. Someone may be able to grab and copy it. Made available for copyright infringement. Likewise radio stations make songs available for copying too. Although she'd still end up at the guilty end of things, the basis of her previous conviction was absurd. Good to see that the judge has come this conclusion as well -- but sad that the obviousness of the absurdity wasn't seen earlier.


RE: Haha
By masher2 (blog) on 5/16/2008 2:03:04 PM , Rating: 1
> "that which she was found guilty of is the same as leaving a CD on your car seat with the door unlocked."

Not at all, as you're allowed to emperil your own personal copy of a CD at will. The situation is more akin to making an illegal copy, then leaving it on your car seat.

> "Likewise radio stations make songs available for copying too"

But they do so with the full permission of the copyright holder, hence the difference.


RE: Haha
By Shawn5961 on 5/16/2008 4:04:04 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
Not at all, as you're allowed to emperil your own personal copy of a CD at will. The situation is more akin to making an illegal copy, then leaving it on your car seat.


Then again, with the ways the RIAA has been trying to stretch intellectual property lately, I wouldn't be surprised if that got deemed illegal.

"What, someone stole your CD? Well, that's loss of profits for us, so we're gonna have to take you to court for $150,000 for allowing someone to steal our intellectual property."


RE: Haha
By Oregonian2 on 5/16/2008 7:41:34 PM , Rating: 2
So if she had actually ripped those songs from her CDs as she claimed and made them available on whatever it was she did, it would have been okay with the RIAA -- that she had downloaded them first before making it available is the problem? I thought it was absurd before but it's getting even harder to understand!


RE: Haha
By Xerstead on 5/16/2008 10:59:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
...is more akin to making an illegal copy, then leaving it on your car seat.

Would that be a self-made copy for personal use in the car, so as not to damage the original cd, as previousaly allowed under 'fair-use'. Then 'allowing' that to be stolen.


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