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
    snowburn14, 25 Sep 2008 @ 11:10am

    Re:

    "If someone uploads three songs, the damages should be three bucks. That's it. Anything more would be a windfall. And in nearly every other area of law, that would be improper."

    While I agree the money they typically try to "recoup" is ridiculous, $3 isn't exactly fair either. While I'm loathe to sound like I'm even in the same county as someone asserting that 1 dl = 1 lost sale, you can't equate uploading 1 song with 1 lost sale either. I don't know the specifics of the deals worked out with digital distributors like itunes or amazon (i.e. whether it's a lump sum based on expected sales or if they fork over a percentage), but I can only assume they pay more than $1 apiece for the right to sell downloads. Obviously we're not talking about people charging for the songs they're sharing, so nothing on the scale of what amazon pays for the rights would make sense, but neither are we talking about a one-time occurance. It seems to me what's fair would have to fall somewhere between those two extremes, albeit a lot closer to the $3 mark than what they go after...something tells me they've sought more than what they charge amazon from time to time.
    Personally, I think they've lost more money in sales due to bad PR from they're overzealous attempts to enforce their copyrights than they have from people who would've bought it if they hadn't been able to dl for free. But given that it's entirely possible they'll be made obscolete in 10 years, and that they've past the point of no return PR-wise, I don't know why anyone expects them to do anything other than go after every penny their lawyers can make even the weakest argument for.

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