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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 SavagePotato on 10/31/2008 11:21:14 AM , Rating: 4
I am pretty sure you get modded down for going off topic to get on a soapbox about pirates.

The issue at hand is trying people for crimes without evidence. Regardless of how much you think ah she's obviously guilty anyway, yadda yadda, the burden of proof exists for a reason.

As soon as you start convicting people without evidence it's just a bit of a slippery slope. Do the prosecutors get to get away with ah come on, he looks like a murderer anyway doesn't he, send em to jail? Be careful what kind of justice system you cheer for when it's you or your grandma getting sued for 200k dollars for music you didn't download and being railroaded with no proof.

Sounds more like McCarthyism than justice. Use it for your own personal soapbox to change topic and lambaste pirates, well yeah, that would be when you are going to get modded down.


RE: Denial doesn't change copyright law
By Regs on 10/31/2008 3:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
Furthermore, the prosecution has resources unavailable to the average criminal defendant. Therefore, it is imperative that
information which is essential to the defense in the hands of the prosecution be made available to the accused. If trials are
indeed searches for the truth rather than efforts to conceal it, full and fair disclosure [**89] is necessary to protect and
preserve the rights of the accused against the awesome power of the accusor.

Although extended appeals in criminal matters have been widely criticized, the need for review is amply demonstrated by this
matter. There is a substantial danger that our society, concerned about the growth of crime, will retreat from the safeguards and
rights accorded to the accused by the constitution. The need to combat crime should never be utilized to justify an erosion of
our fundamental guarantees. Indeed, the growing volume of criminal cases should make us even more vigilant; the greater the
quantity -- the greater the risk to the quality of justice.


RE: Denial doesn't change copyright law
By Regs on 10/31/2008 3:50:56 PM , Rating: 2
- Judge H. Lee Sarokin


RE: Denial doesn't change copyright law
By croc on 11/1/2008 12:48:40 AM , Rating: 2
When are you guys going to understand the difference between criminal law and civil torts? Here, I'll make it easy for you. OJ Simpson was found innocent of several criminal violations, and walked out of the courtroom free as a bird. No matter your views on the matter, that is what happened. However he was later sued in civil court, lost, and an award was given to the plaintiffs.

Not picking on you, savagepotato...


By SavagePotato on 11/3/2008 11:47:18 AM , Rating: 2
And what is your point? That evidence should not be necessary because it is a civil suit?

That sounds like a great idea doesn't it.

How about no, it's just as reckless and stupid to be able to try people for large sums of money without evidence.


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