Judge Michael J. Davis barred Recording Industry Association of America President Cary Sherman from testifying in Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas, the
first RIAA lawsuit to go to jury trial. With Sherman struck from the witness
list, testimony wrapped up Wednesday and a decision is expected today.
“I don’t want to turn this case into a soap box for the recording industry,”
said Thomas’ counsel Brian Toder. RIAA lawyers argued that Sherman could
provide valuable testimony to the jury over the case’s significance and the
harm the RIAA has suffered due to piracy.
Even after Judge Davis rendered his motion to bar Sherman’s testimony, RIAA
counsel Richard Gabriel continued to press on. Emphasizing the importance of
Sherman’s testimony, Gabriel argued that Sherman is needed to help the jury see
the “massive problem of file sharing,” and that the RIAA is not out to make
money but “to prove a point.”
Judge Davis remained stalwart, refusing to reconsider.
Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas is
significant because it is the first case among the RIAA’s litany of more than
18,000 lawsuits to make it to jury trial. With most of the suits, the RIAA
tends to push for a settlement to avoid costly litigation; defendants, facing
overwhelming legal fees and the costs of going to court, usually settle for
amounts that range from around $3,000 to $11,000.
Previous testimony in Capitol Records v. Jammie
Thomas included witnesses from Sony BMG, Warner Bros., and EMI
Records of North America. In one such testimony, Sony BMG’s head of litigation
Jennifer Pariser equated Fair Use to stealing when she testified that if “an
individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a
song,” adding that making “a copy” is just “a nice way saying ‘steals just one
quote: Of those 1,700 tracks, 24 were named – including music from popular artists such as AFI, Green Day, and Aerosmith – and for each one she was held liable for $9,250 worth of damages, coming to a grand total of $222,000.