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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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  • Good for her (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fewnorms (630720) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:11AM (#25152733)
    About time the RIAA loses a big case like this, and have the public know about it. Bunch of crooks...
    • Re:Good for her (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Evets (629327) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:16AM (#25152827) Homepage Journal

      It'll be interesting to see if the verdict reversal gets the same amount of mainstream media coverage. It's one thing to see this in the tech media. It's another thing when it's in Time, Newsweek, and all the major newspapers.

      • Re:Good for her (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dimeglio (456244) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:55AM (#25153431)

        I suppose it will appear in those media which are not members of the RIAA or owned by members of the RIAA. Maybe some Canadian press will cover the reversal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jonny_eh (765306)

          Why would the Canadian media cover an event that has little effect up here? There's more important things to cover like two elections (US and Canadia) and not to forget the 'next great depression'.

      • Timing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by wfstanle (1188751) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:06PM (#25153597)

        I too would like a lot of media attention but let's be realistic. With all that is happening now, they will bury news of it to where you will be forced to hunt for it. It's important news, but it will not get much public attention. In this respect, the RIAA is lucky because the timing is good for them. They may have lost a battle but the war will still continue.

  • ...for setting aside other judgments
    • by Evets (629327)

      Were there other judgements? I thought this was the first.

      • by sabre3999 (1143017) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:40AM (#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.)
        • by Evets (629327) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:54AM (#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.

  • by BountyX (1227176) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:12AM (#25152753)
    What a nice day today...RIAA loses, DOJ opposes DOJ Copyright Oversight. What's next? Bush finally gets impeached?
    • Re:Today is nice (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:17AM (#25152845)

      Ugh... 2 words: President Cheney.

  • Well, doesn't this mean they get a second try? I mean, throwing it out is awesome, but it could still happen again, now that they know all that they do.

  • by devnullkac (223246) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:13AM (#25152759) Homepage

    Read literally, I suppose this means a $222K verdict is roaming the countryside, looking for someone to ... adopt it?

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:15AM (#25152811)

    and get them for attorney's fees and mental anguish.

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

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:16AM (#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.
    • by Krinsath (1048838) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:29AM (#25153059)
      Actually, he calls on Congress to review the penalties of the Copyright Act. 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. Hence why the damages seem so excessive, the law wasn't really designed to cope with these circumstances. The infringing party makes no money on the enterprise and are usually private individuals...applying a "business" penalty to an individual is why they seem so grossly out of proportion.

      That said, the fact that the law wasn't designed with the situation in mind does not mean they can ignore it since there's no other law on the topic. So if she's found guilty again she will likely face the same "penalty" scheme that she had previously. Hence why he asks Congress to amend the law and is simply characterizing the judgment, not throwing it out. There's nothing truly unconstitutional about the law, it's just not being used against the targets that the writers had in mind when the law was written.
      • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:39AM (#25153201) Homepage

        That said, the fact that the law wasn't designed with the situation in mind does not mean they can ignore it since there's no other law on the topic.

        If it's a jury trial, they certainly can ignore the law if they choose [wikipedia.org].

        • Re:Technically . . . (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AlexCorn (763954) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:37PM (#25154093)
          I was recently considered for jury duty in a cocaine selling/possession case. One of the screening questions the potential jurors were asked was "Do you have any problems with the Indiana drug laws?" I said yes, that they should be repealed. The judge asked if I was capable of making a distinction between what the law said and what I believed. I said yes, of course, and brought up jury nullification. He said that we don't do that anymore, and I was dismissed from jury duty.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RulerOf (975607)

        it's just not being used against the targets that the writers had in mind when the law was written.

        When MAFIAA agents wrote that bill and lobbied to get it signed, they damn well intended it to be used to ruin the lives of anyone who would later cross their paths, irrespective of any profit motives other than their own.

        The law is irresponsibly unfair and unjust, quite possibly even to the wealthiest and most criminal of piracy enterprises.

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

        by Dragoon412 (648209) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:58AM (#25153483)

        There's nothing truly unconstitutional about the law

        Actually, that's not entirely true.

        The leading case on the constitutionality of damages is BMW v. Gore. You can read it here [cornell.edu] if you're interested.

        Out of that case came three guideposts that the Supreme Court uses to assess whether or not damages are constitutional.

        1. The degree of reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct
        2. The portion of the damages that are compensatory
        3. Statutory punitive damages/penalties that could be imposed

        So, that the statute allows such damages only satisfies one of the three guideposts. However, punitive damages in this case vastly outstripped the compensatory damages. I remember reading it in an article when the verdict was announced, but the punitive:compensatory damages were, what, on the order of 9000:1? The court has said, in Phillip Morris USA v. Williams, that damages that were only 100:1 punitive:compensatory were "grossly excessive."

        The only issue to be resolved, at this point, is how reprehensible the court finds the defendant's conduct.

        It seems to me that, if this question of damages managed to get before the US Supreme Court, it'd be thrown out as unconstitutional in a hurry.

        But I'm just a law student offering my armchair lawyer analysis. Take the above with a grain of salt.

      • You may recall the 8th amendment, which states "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." The part we are interested here in is the "nor excessive fine imposed." It would seem to many that the extremely high statutory fines in copyright infringement cases are indeed excessive. They are vastly out of proportion with the harm caused by the crime. When you are, literally, facing fines higher for copying a song than you would for shoplifting

    • Re:Technically . . . (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JoeMerchant (803320) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:31AM (#25153089)
      In the old days, warez exchangers would require a newbie to send something to them first before sharing anything - something about entrapment if the investigator would do something illegal to gain the marks' trust. The last paragraph of the article mentions that distribution to MediaSentry would constitute infringement - I wonder if P2P networks will be adopting the old "send me one first" mechanism in light of this?
  • Call me cynical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LuxMaker (996734) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:19AM (#25152865) Journal
    but this is just what the *IAA needs to push through tougher legislation.

    And Judge Davis went further, "implor[ing] Congress to amend the Copyright Act to address liability and damages in peer-to-peer network cases..."

    How many people want to guess that "Copyright reform" turns draconian?

  • by gad_zuki! (70830) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:19AM (#25152873)

    Then you still lose.

  • well in the UK "Jammy" is slang for "Lucky" - and yes, she is.

    so what does this mean for the other **AA cases on the go? whilst its good news for Jammy, having legal weight behind the concept that "making available" is flawed no doubt helps everybody else as well.

    am I right?

    the main link is already dead (for me) but you can see more here..
    http://news.google.co.uk/news?q=Jammy+Thomas&ie=UTF-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&hl=en&sa=X&oi [google.co.uk]
  • Mediasentry issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:21AM (#25152937)

    One point brought up in the articles is that it's possible the MediaSentry downloads are unauthorized copies, which seems to be necessary since if the RIAA authorizes the copy, then technically they're not infringing copyright and hence have to basis for a lawsuit.

    However, if the copies by MediaSentry are not authorized, then by not prosecuting MediaSentry for illicit downloads, aren't they undermining their own case by not going after every case of infringement?

    Just idle thoughts...

    • by ShaunC (203807)

      One point brought up in the articles is that it's possible the MediaSentry downloads are unauthorized copies, which seems to be necessary since if the RIAA authorizes the copy, then technically they're not infringing copyright and hence have to basis for a lawsuit.

      Whether or not MediaSentry was authorized to download the file is irrelevant. Mitch Bainwol himself could be doing the downloading, it's still illegal for Jammy Thomas to do the (alleged) uploading.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheLinuxSRC (683475) *
        That depends on your point of view. Did Jammie Thomas make the illegal copy? Or did she just provide someone else (the downloader) the means to make a copy. If she did not make a copy she has (technically) not infringed on anyone's copyright. I know, I know; semantics, but that is up to the court to decide.
  • Charge her $24 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilovesymbian (1341639) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:22AM (#25152943)

    If she's charged at the market rate of $0.99 per song, she'll owe the music companies $24.00 plus tax.

    Let her pay it and be done over with.

    • by corsec67 (627446)

      Generally lawsuits like that should have a fine that is worse than just buying the item. Otherwise people would infringe on copyrights all the time, since the worse fine would be equal to paying to begin with.

      In this case, I think the maximum fine should be what she would have gotten for actually stealing the songs. Like from a brick and mortar store.

  • Not So Fast (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:24AM (#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.
    • by m0rph3us0 (549631)

      What is "strict proof"? Many people are convicted purely on circumstantial evidence, think Hans Reiser where they really had no proof she was even dead. The standard in civil cases (which this is) is even lower. Criminal cases is "beyond a reasonable doubt" and in civil cases is "based on a preponderance of the evidence".

  • by Dan667 (564390) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:26AM (#25152981)
    Really if you want to stop the RIAA you need to start posting hate on the companies that support it. Once you start to hurt their brands and people stop buying their products, because of the negative press, and the RIAA will cease to exist. Everyone hates the RIAA, but no one hates those who fund it yet. So hate on these companies SONY WARNER EMI UNIVERSAL ...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by O('_')O_Bush (1162487)
      "Once you start to hurt their brands and people stop buying their products, because of the negative press, and the RIAA will cease to exist."

      No, historically they have just used the loss of profit in their figures for pirated musics.

      "We've had x loss this quarter! There is no explanation other than that people must be pirating music and causing us financial harm! Nevermind the shit music we produce and the media attention from the lawsuit we just filed against a dead person..."
  • WRONG. (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:26AM (#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.

  • From TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 25, 2008 @11:27AM (#25153015)

    AFAIK (IANAL) a mistrial means that the same evidence and INTENT is used in the prosecution of the defendant. such as:

    "Thomas will face a new trial, in which the RIAA will have to prove actual distribution." (Direct from TFA)

    But it is interesting to note that:

    "The decision means the RIAA now has zero wins at trial, Wired notes." (from TFA)

    So far, it seems that the RIAA is nothing more than a paper tiger, and there is much ado about the nothing that is the reporting of all this hoopla.

    I do seem to remember (can't cite the examples at the moment) some headlines concerning individuals being brought to trial that had unbeliveable judgements levied at them for "copyright infringement", but no ACTUAL culpability against the plaintiff.

  • RIAA books (Score:2, Interesting)

    by krystar (608153)
    isn't it awesome to be part of the RIAA though? you get all this money from the record companies and get to use it without any recouping of costs. all they do is spend spend spend. track record for income is ...zilch.
  • $222K is NOTHING (Score:3, Interesting)

    by InlawBiker (1124825) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @12:24PM (#25153891)

    OK, Hooray for the small guy!

    But losing small court battles for six-figure judgments is really nothing for these guys. What they got in exchange was thousands of newspaper articles and blogs talking about people being sued for file sharing. The FUD Factory worked! You can't buy that kind of press. Anything under a million is a bargain.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday September 25, 2008 @01:25PM (#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.

As in certain cults it is possible to kill a process if you know its true name. -- Ken Thompson and Dennis M. Ritchie

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