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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 An Arizona ruling entered on similar arguments was revoked late last April, he added, and earlier this month a Florida federal court reached the same conclusion.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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Jury concept is so primitive
By FS on 5/16/2008 3:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
The whole jury system is absurd and I can't believe it's still being used. I didn't deduce this just from this case, so don't say it's just an exception. If you check even some of the cases in history, you'll know what I am saying. When people, who have little to no knowledge of a particular matter, are making the decision(yes, it goes for life and death decisions too) is in and of itself an absurd thing.

RE: Jury concept is so primitive
By joex444 on 5/16/2008 3:39:09 PM , Rating: 2
Even worse is the jurors chosen are the ones that are blatantly ignorant of legal proceedings.

Guaranteed way to get off a jury is to tell the prosecutor you know what Jury Nullification is.

In fact, it is up to the jury to decide TWO things:

1) Is the defendant guilty of the crime alledged?
2) Is the law something we need?

Even if we acknowledge that the defendant is guilty, it may be of a crime that we feel should not be enforced. Thus, a not guilty vote effectively sets precedent that this law is not going to be enforced. It will reduce the number of attempted legislations, and with enough rejected lawsuits would make the law obsolete.

RE: Jury concept is so primitive
By Some1ne on 5/16/2008 6:49:30 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, let's just appoint a legal czar to hand out decrees of guilt and innocence. That would work so much better, no?

RE: Jury concept is so primitive
By emmet on 5/19/2008 4:33:06 AM , Rating: 2
Let's not do that :)

The jury system may be the best way of determining guilt or innocence that we've thought of so far, but it's not perfect.

The jury system originated at a time when all crimes were easily understood by an average person, and it was reasonable to expect 12 average persons to understand the crime, the evidence, and the motive. Nowadays, I'm not so sure that such expectations are reasonable.

One might legitimately argue that some cases (perhaps complex technical fraud cases, for example), might be better heard by "expert" jurors. I would not be at all surprised if a great many white-collar criminals go free because a bewildered jury simply don't understand a case that might be crystal clear to a jury of forensic accountants.

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