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RIAA v. Thomas will get a second attempt

The retrial for the RIAA’s landmark $222,000 judgment against Duluth, Minnesota woman Jammie Thomas will begin March 9, after a federal judge tossed out the original verdict last month.

In a first-of-its-kind four day trial last October, a jury found Thomas liable for copyright infringement at a rate of $9,250 per song. Of the 1,700 songs files that the RIAA said Thomas made available, it elected to seek damages on 24 of them – from artists such as AFI, Green Day, and Aerosmith – reaching the breathtaking grand total of $222,000.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael Davis declared a mistrial last month, after finding that RIAA lawyers misguided the jury with an erroneous instruction: Jury Instruction No. 15 told jurors to consider the act of making a copyrighted song available for download (via a P2P client’s shared folder) equivalent to the act of infringement. Because Thomas was not found to have committed actual copyright infringement – proving a thing is impossible, claims the RIAA, because it cannot monitor all the different connections P2P clients make to each other – RIAA lawyers generally equate making available with actually trading music.

“Requiring proof of actual transfers would cripple efforts to enforce copyright owners' rights online,” said RIAA attorney Timothy Reynolds last month. “[It] would solely benefit those who seek to freeload off plaintiff's investment.”

Davis announced he had doubts about the decision last May, after a slew of similar cases in Florida and Arizona ruled in the defendants’ favor, striking down the “making available” argument. Upon looking into the matter sua sponte – on his own accord – Davis says he found a 1993 ruling from the 8th circuit Court of Appeals that requires evidence of “actual dissemination of copies or phonorecords” in order to prove copyright infringement. The 1993 decision, which featured prominently in the Florida and Arizona decisions, was never mentioned in Thomas’ original trial.

The RIAA promised an appeal to Davis’ September order, “either now or after a full retrial.” (PDF)



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RE: Denial doesn't change copyright law
By omnicronx on 10/31/2008 9:51:02 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
a 1993 ruling from the 8th circuit Court of Appeals that requires evidence of “actual dissemination of copies or phonorecords” in order to prove copyright infringement.
Obviously you lack reading comprehension. The entire case was deemed a mistrial because RIAA lawyers claimed something as law to the jury, that was not. And a previous precedent such as the case above, basically states that they have to prove the files were transferred, which the RIAA have already stated they can't do. Yes copyright infringement is illegal, but that does not make the RIAA exempt from following the law. Regardless of your feelings, you are innocent until proven guilty, and a bunch of files in your shared directory, without proof of any kind of transfer will not and should not hold up in court.

The RIAA chooses to pursue these stupid cases like there is not another alternative. All they would have had to do is download a file from her shared directory, and voila, proof of sharing. Instead they go after dead grandmas, children, and people who barely download music with merely searching for shared files, and logging the IP's. I have absolutely no sympathy for the RIAA and their tactics, and personally I think they should be banned from bringing cases to the court after continuous rulings against them for the exact same charge, having files in a shared folder.


RE: Denial doesn't change copyright law
By glitchc on 10/31/2008 10:03:31 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
All they would have had to do is download a file from her shared directory, and voila, proof of sharing.


Just wanted to add that this technique has been tried by the RIAA, a la MediaSentry, and subsequently rejected by the court. There is one specific case where MediaSentry did download files from the user in such a manner, but the judged ruled against them, as a copyright holder cannot violate his/her own copyright.


RE: Denial doesn't change copyright law
By TomCorelis on 10/31/2008 3:17:34 PM , Rating: 2
I believe the specific case law states something along the lines of "a copyright holder, or one of their agents, can not infringe their own copyright."


By glitchc on 11/25/2008 8:34:09 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for clarifying, Tom.

PS: Sorry for the late response. I do not check my comments often.


By foolsgambit11 on 11/1/2008 8:47:58 PM , Rating: 2
Just want to point out that reading comprehension may not be your strong suit, either. It wasn't the RIAA that gave the instructions to the jury, it was the judge.

It's vastly different. If the RIAA says that making available is illegal to the jury, the defense can say, 'no, that's not right.' But when the judge gives the instructions to the jury to regard making available as infringement, the jury doesn't get a counterargument to consider.


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