Judge hints he will declare mistrial in Thomas case

Judge hints he will declare mistrial in Thomas case

Summary: The judge in the Jammie Thomas copyright-infringement case is likely to declare a mistrial because of his reliance on the RIAA's specious "making available" theory, Wired reports.Last year, a Minnesota jury may headlines by the RIAA a $220,000 verdict against Thomas (pictured).

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TOPICS: Legal
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The judge in the Jammie Thomas copyright-infringement case is likely to declare a mistrial because of his reliance on the RIAA's specious "making available" theory, Wired reports.

Last year, a Minnesota jury may headlines by the RIAA a $220,000 verdict against Thomas (pictured). But the verdict was based on jury instructions that defined "distribution" as merely "making available" songs for download. In May, Judge Michael Davis ordered both sides to brief arguments on whether that instruction was "manifest error."

At the hearing, the judge said he expects to issue a ruling by the end of September, and strongly hinted that he will order a new trial.

About 35 minutes into the hearing, as RIAA attorney Donald Verrilli Jr. was set to urge Davis not to disturb the $222,000 judgment against Thomas for unlawfully distributing 24 songs, the judge said: "Certainly, I have sent a signal to both sides of where I'm headed."

The question is whether Congress intended a copyright holder to have to prove a distribution of a copyright work. The judge apparently noted that Congress did not explicitly allow distribution to be implied without proof. "Why didn't Congress do that?" the judge asked.

"There is nothing in that language that the plaintiff must demonstrate a transfer," Verrilli said.

The RIAA's argument is essentially that it can't prove distribution and so it must be able to proceed on the mere presence of the files in a folder. If it can't imply distribution, Verelli said, "the distribution right doesn't mean anything." Thomas' attorney, Brian Toder, said the RIAA wants the district court to "proscribe a new right of recovery."

"Would Congress really fashion a statute where a plaintiff doesn't have to prove liability? They have to prove every element that a statute requires. That is good public policy.
Both sides plan to appeal the decision whatever Judge Davis decides in September.

Topic: Legal

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  • Dangerous Precedent

    Isn't it enough that this person actually dared to have their music on her computer. We are all guilty of making available, if it is on your hard drive and you are on the internet, via some exploit, security hole or otherwise, we are ALL guilty of making available. We are ALL, 100% of us, guilty of being able to fire a gun, we should all go to jail. I could drive my car down main street at 113 mph, therefore, it should be confiscated and I should be fined.

    This needing proof of guilt is going way too far. You do know that the RIAA needs as much extortion money as possible to keep up the extortion. This dangerous trend will deplete their resources more and more, and soon enough this corrupt enterprise will have to go back to the member companies for a handout.

    I say guilty until proven innocent. Since you can't prove a negative (prove she didn't distribute, prove you never have sped, etc), this will do well to make sure the RIAA and others like them get the continued funding needed to make the world a better place for all.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • I'm glad . . .

      that cooler heads are starting to prevail in this. Unfortunately, a lot of damage was done to innocent people, and the RIAA hopefully will be made to repay people for the lives that they have ruined . . .

      I still think that this needs to be addressed by Congress, since no one else wants to man up in this Administration and make things right.

      I'm a Conservative Republican, and I'm still constantly amazed at what the Bush White House lets people get by with in the name of "Free Market" . . .
      JLHenry
  • RE: Judge hints he will declare mistrial in Thomas case

    And he should!

    If anyone should be liable, it ought to be the peer-to-peer companies like Kazaa, which make money off of copyright infringement.

    No, they cannot control what is shared via their technology but their marketing is clearly aimed at the sharing of the very same copyrighted material that the RIAA is so hot about.

    The hapless parent who is anything but tech saavy is at the mercy of companies like Kazaa who lure their kids into committing copyright infringement. Whether these kids knowingly break the law or not, it is virtually impossible to use these services and KNOW that your use is always legal.

    At the very least, these services should make it OBVIOUS when they tools might be being used illegally so even the unwitting parent gets a warning they they may be illegally sharing material which is protected by copyright.

    The user should not be able to share a file or folder through these services without being warned that such sharing might be illegal.
    M Wagner