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RIAA Loses $222K Verdict 342

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the turning-tide dept.
jriding writes "The $222,000 verdict against Jammy Thomas for copyright infringement by P2P is no more. US District Court Judge Michael Davis dismissed the verdict, saying it was based on the faulty 'making available' theory of distribution."
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RIAA Loses $222K Verdict

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  • Re:So What's Next? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mazarin5 (309432) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:14PM (#25152781) Journal

    Thomas will face a new trial, in which the RIAA will have to prove actual distribution.

    It's in the first fucking paragraph of the article!

  • Technically . . . (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:16PM (#25152813)
    The RIAA didn't lose. The judge declared a mistrial. If both sides cannot come to a settlement, there will be a new trial. The judge determined he made an error in the jury instructions. Specifically in #15, he told them that making a song available could be considered as copyright infringement. On another note, he did call the $222K reward excessive. So even if Jammie Thomas loses the next trial, it will be unlikely she will have to face such a large damage award.
  • Re:woo! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mazarin5 (309432) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:19PM (#25152875) Journal

    Not so much; they will try her again, but they have to prove actual distribution. Note that the judge also lowered the bar for actual distribution, in a sense. Our pet theory of MediaSentry acting as an agent of the RIAA, and therefore doesn't constitute distribution, was also explicitly discarded:

    âoedistribution to an investigator, such as MediaSentry, can constitute unauthorized distribution.â

  • Not So Fast (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:24PM (#25152969)
    Not so fast here with the bubbly. This judge still says that copyright infringement can be shown by "circumstantial evidence", rather than the strict proof of the details of actual infringement required by the law and court decisions. And that (in another related case) downloads by MediaSentry count as infringement even thought MediaSentry is a paid agent of the copyright holder and the law has long held that a copyright owner cannot infringe their own copyrights. While all this is good news, it is yet to be great news.
  • WRONG. (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:26PM (#25152987)

    http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/09/not-for-publica.html

    Still, Judge Davis' decision does not derail the RIAA's case against Thomas on retrial or any other pending or future case. Davis ruled that the downloads from Thomas' open share folder that RIAA investigators made, 24 in all, "can form the basis of an infringment claim."

    Or how about http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/25/jammie_thomas_again/ [theregister.co.uk]

    The judge in Jammie Thomas' challenge to her landmark $220,000 fine for sharing music over KaZaa has declared a mistrial, forcing yet another court case.

    I don't expect Joe Blo's blog to get this right, but I do expect ZDNet and Slashdot to.

  • by TheLinuxSRC (683475) * <slashdot@@@pagewash...com> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:34PM (#25153135) Homepage
    Bzzzzzzzt. Wrong. Thanks for playing.

    From the article:

    One important tidbit, little noticed yet, pointed out by Excess Copyright: [blogspot.com] "distribution to an investigator, such as MediaSentry, can constitute unauthorized distribution."
  • by sabre3999 (1143017) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:40PM (#25153211)
    Yup, first and only... though she'll still end up guilty I bet. The only thing this does is require the RIAA to prove distribution for the monetary value of the punishment, not absolve her and require them to prove anything to get a guilty verdict (at least that's what I gather from RTFA.)
  • Re:Technically . . . (Score:3, Informative)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:50PM (#25153373)

    The Act was intended to penalize "competitor's" who engaged in the infringement where income was earned on the enterprise, not so much a consumer who is actually getting nothing in the process

    That's funny, because I thought the DMCA specifically put in ridiculous sums of money where consumers were doing the pirating. They might have justified it by saying that it was for use with corporations, but the way I read it leaves little doubt in my mind that they wanted it used against consumers as well.

  • by Evets (629327) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:54PM (#25153417) Homepage Journal

    A whole new trial is what I get from RTFA.

    From the judgement:

    The Court hereby VACATES the verdict rendered in this case by the
    jury and grants Defendant a new trial to commence on a date to be
    set by the Court after consultation with the parties.
    2. The Judgment entered on October 5, 2007 [Docket No. 106] is
    VACATED.

  • Re:Technically . . . (Score:4, Informative)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:58PM (#25153481)

    Possibly, but the primary goal of the DMCA was to target companies or individuals who produce tools to assist consumers in copyright violations, not the copyright-violators themselves.

  • by Worthless_Comments (987427) <anphillia@gmail.com> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @01:00PM (#25153513)
    Entrapment is only when the police cause a crime to happen where there wouldn't be one. If a cop comes up to a drug dealer and bought drugs from them, that is not entrapment. If a cop comes up to someone who isn't a drug dealer and pesters them to get drugs for them and they do, that is entrapment.
  • by sabre3999 (1143017) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @01:01PM (#25153521)
    I'll concede that there will be a new trial, I misread it.

    However, there will still probably be a guilty verdict at the end... The judge chimed in saying that distribution to an investigator such as MediaSentry still provides basis for claims. If they can prove that then don't they essentially have the verdict?
  • Re:woo! (Score:4, Informative)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @01:11PM (#25153677) Homepage

    Of course they are biased: they are the plaintiff's witness. That is irrelevant. However,
    Minnesota does require that private investigators have state licenses. If MediaSentry was indeed acting as a private investigator and was not licensed it is probable that none of their testimony or evidence is admissable at all. Unfortunately this was not brought up at the first trial and so the judge may not allow it to be brought up at the second.

  • by OneIfByLan (1341287) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @01:53PM (#25154361)

    Courts routinely slap down punitive damages that are 10X the actual damages as being grossly unreasonable. Treble damages are the norm, so right now, she owes $72.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:25PM (#25154825) Homepage

    Ray Beckerman's (a.k.a. NewYorkCountryLawyer) comments can be viewed here [blogspot.com]

    Apparently legal efforts like his are starting to pay off.

  • Re:Call me cynical (Score:1, Informative)

    by Warhawke (1312723) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:40PM (#25155047)
    You mean like the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights Act of 2008 (S.3325) [loc.gov], which proposes that copyright violation, a civil matter, will no longer have to have a "preponderance of evidence" to initiate a trial, and that the civil infractions can be pursued and prosecuted by a new czar branch of the FBI? Oh, and statutory damages for "willful" trademark violation are doubled, up to $2 million. Plus, the government reserves the right to search and seize any property used to violate copyrights and trademarks.

    You can thank Leahy for that one. I am ashamed that my senators are co-sponsors...

    As a side note, COPS would certainly become more interesting if the FBI showed up for every domestic violence case...

  • Re:Good for her (Score:5, Informative)

    by shark72 (702619) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @02:51PM (#25155251)

    "What's fucked up though is that a pirate who illegally downloads 10 songs has created a potential revenue loss of about $15 bucks to the record companies. But the record companies want to sue that individual for $15,000. The punishment does not fit the crime."

    The record companies are generally suing folks (including Ms. Thomas) for distributing -- or, at the least, making them available for distribution.

    You're 100% correct that Jammie downloaded relatively few songs -- but that's not the issue. When she downloaded them, they were placed into her share directory (possibly without her knowledge) where they were available to others.

    We don't do favors by repeating the notion that people are being sued for "downloading." The record companies are generally dishonest; let's not fight that with more dishonesty. If I run over your cat with my car, I might take some heat for killing the cat; it would be incorrect to state that I got in trouble just for driving a car.

  • Re:Good for her (Score:2, Informative)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @04:34PM (#25156917)
    The difference is that pirates hurt them, pirates being individuals. By going to court every week and draining tax payer dollars while often hurting innocent grandma clearly the RIAA is the greater threat. A person who steals from another is wrong and should be punished, a person who steals from the collective good of society is a criminal.
  • Inadequate summary? (Score:2, Informative)

    by xtracto (837672) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @04:36PM (#25156977) Journal

    All well and good... but I fail to understand why was this summary accepted instead of the more appropiate and insightful summary [slashdot.org] submitted by NewYorkCountryLawyer?

  • Ray Beckerman's (a.k.a. NewYorkCountryLawyer) comments can be viewed here [blogspot.com][blogspot.com] Apparently legal efforts like his are starting to pay off.

    Thank you, dkleinsc. Yes, as Cmdr Taco wryly observed, the tide is turning.

    Now what we need is for more people to fight rather than settle, more lawyers to join this worthy cause, and for people to exploit the rich panoply of defenses that are available to them, such as the fact that the RIAA can't collect statutory damages at all if the recording was not registered with the Copyright Office by the time the defendant began file-sharing [blogspot.com].

  • Re:$222K is NOTHING (Score:4, Informative)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray@be[ ]rmanlegal.com ['cke' in gap]> on Thursday September 25, 2008 @06:22PM (#25158509) Homepage Journal
    My guesstimates, for what they're worth, are that
    -the RIAA has gone after ~40,000 people
    -it's gotten around 25,000 default judgments
    -it's collected almost nothing on the default judgments
    -it's gotten around 10,000 settlements at an average of $3000, for a total of $30 million
    -it's spent around $100 million.

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