Judge Declares Mistrial In RIAA's Only Court Victory

from the jammie-thomas-gets-a-second-chance dept

The RIAA's only court victory in its years-long legal battle against individuals who engage in unauthorized file sharing has been declared a mistrial, and the $222,000 fine against Jammie Thomas has been thrown out. Jammie Thomas may now face a new trial, but this time, the jury will be instructed that the record labels need to have shown actual infringement -- and that simply making files available is not infringement. This is a pretty huge loss for the RIAA, who had been running around like crazy using the Thomas verdict to (a) claim that the courts recognize that "making available" is infringement and (b) that this case somehow proves that file sharers will get huge fines. Yet, now the RIAA is back to having no actual court victories against file sharers, and its "making available = infringement" argument is once again rejected.

Perhaps equally as interesting, in declaring the mistrial, Judge Davis also called upon Congress to change the ridiculous fines that can be levied on file sharers, noting that they seem to be way, way out of proportion to the seriousness of the act:
The Court would be remiss if it did not take this opportunity to implore Congress to amend the Copyright Act to address liability and damages in peer-to-peer network cases such as the one currently before this Court. . . . While the Court does not discount Plaintiffs' claim that, cumulatively, illegal downloading has far-reaching effects on their businesses, the damages awarded in this case are wholly disproportionate to the damages suffered by Plaintiffs.

Filed Under: copyright, jammie thomas, making available, mistrial, trial


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2008 @ 7:44am

    Two pertinent jury instructions, No. 14 (making infringing copies by downloading copyrighted music via P2P) and No. 15 (overstating what constitutes infringement of the "distribution" right). Apparently the jury was not polled (trial counsel will make sure that in the future this is never overlooked) at the time it announced its verdict and damages, and thus the Court was unable to determine the amount of damages associated with No. 14 (the valid instruction) and No. 15 (the invalid instruction).

    Make no mistake, the RIAA proved to the jury's satisfaction that infringing copies were made by the defendant. Statutory damages are available, but their amount needs to be ascertained. As for unauthorized distribution, the RIAA will have to "tweak" (i.e., supplement) its evidence, a relatively easy matter.

    Will a retrial take place? I would be surprised if it did, expecting instead that a monetary settlement will be worked out between the RIAA and the defendant. Why? Because no matter how you cut it the evidence supports at the very least that the defendant made infringing copies.

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