The $222,000 verdict against Jammy Thomas for copyright infringement by P2P is no more. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis dismissed the verdict (PDF), saying it was based on the faulty "making available" theory of distribution. Thomas will face a new trial, in which the RIAA will have to prove actual distribution.
The decision means the RIAA now has zero wins at trial, Wired notes.
RIAA's "making available" theory would hold that someone has distributed copyright material merely by creating the potential for distribution. Under the RIAA's theory, it need not show actual distribution. The judge soundly denied this legal reasoning:
If simply making a copyrighted work available to the public constituted a distribution, even if no member of the public ever accessed that work, copyright owners would be able to make an end run around the standards for assessing contributor copyright infringement.And Judge Davis went further, "implor[ing] Congress to amend the Copyright Act to address liability and damages in peer-to-peer network cases..."
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.
Thumbs up from EFF:
EFF applauds Chief Judge Davis's thorough rejection of the RIAA's effort to rewrite copyright law and thereby avoid the trouble of actually proving any infringement has occurred. And we wholeheartedly endorse the court's call to amend the Copyright Act's oppressive damages provisions.
One important tidbit, little noticed yet, pointed out by Excess Copyright: "distribution to an investigator, such as MediaSentry, can constitute unauthorized distribution."
I will offer an in-depth walk-through of the decision shortly.