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Judge tosses out RIAA win in Thomas case

updated 10:30 am EDT, Thu September 25, 2008

Mistrial in RIAA Thomas

Minnesota US District Judge Michael Davis today dismissed a Recording Industry Association of America victory in its controversial anti-piracy case against Jammie Thomas, declaring a mistrial. The move at least temporarily eliminates the $220,000 fine demanded by the music label representatives for claims that she pirated 24 songs by making them available through the KaZaA file sharing service. The call for a retrial comes after Judge Davis reversed his position and said a jury was no longer required to consider hosting songs enough of a legal grounding to find against Thomas.

The decision follows the judge's post-verdict reconsideration of his previous approach that he said was likely to result in a mistrial but which was open to court arguments from either side.

Davis' turnaround centers primarily on the application of the US Copyright Act, which to this date requires evidence of an actual exchange taking place to find someone responsible for copyright infringement. The RIAA hasn't provided evidence of this taking place with third parties in Thomas' instance and has claimed that providing proof would be "impossible," effectively handing a default ruling in favor of most defendants in these cases.

The organization nonetheless has been told that any proof of test downloads by investigators might be usable as evidence; critics, including Thomas' defending attorney Brian Toder, have in the past argued that test downloads don't show evidence of copyright violations as they are explicitly approved by the RIAA. Other legal teams have also challenged the legitimacy of the investigations themselves, with New York's Ray Beckerman questioning their permission to conduct investigations of potentially private data.

Judge Davis also issued a statement on damages that supports both Thomas and critics of the RIAA's approach to punishing alleged file sharers. The RIAA has often been accused of forcing no-contest settlements for thousands of dollars by threatening much costlier trials and very high fines should alleged targets lose their cases. The Minnesota judge agrees that copyright infringement is a problem but says that the fine asked for in the Thomas case is "wholly disproportionate" to the actual amount lost, even after factoring in many downloads of all 24 songs.

"Thomas allegedly infringed on the copyrights of 24 songs -‐ the equivalent of approximately three CDs, costing less than $54, and yet the total damages awarded is $222,000," Judge Davis explains. "[The fine is] more than 500 times the cost of buying 24 separate CDs and more than 4,000 times the cost of three CDs."

It's not yet known when the retrial will begin. The RIAA also has not commented on the decision.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. horvatic

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2002

    -4

    This is a GREAT TREND!!!!

    First one lady wins and now we have another victory against the RIAA. This is a great trend starting to happen here. The RIAA and there ridiculous claims and lawsuits should all be thrown out. The fair rights copy act should be re-instated and that should be the end of it. People who already purchased there music should be able to do whatever they want with it just like any other purchase that you make. The record labels are greedy and don't know how to do business in an online world maybe should just get out of the business entirely!

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +2

    Re: trend

    First one lady wins and now we have another victory against the RIAA.

    This is NOT a victory against the RIAA. It's a declaration of a mistrial because of incorrect jury instructions (and actually the instructions weren't necessarily incorrect, just that the judge has changed his mind on what the jury should have been told). The judge probably changed his mind on this because of the other rulings in other courts.

    But this isn't a victory, it's a "start over from the beginning". So the RIAA will be taking the person back into court, and the circus starts over. And when a ruling is handed down, the losing side will appeal, and the appeals will continue.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +2

    fair use

    The fair rights copy act should be re-instated and that should be the end of it.

    Um, it's never been de-instated, so there's nothing to re-instate.

    People who already purchased there music should be able to do whatever they want with it just like any other purchase that you make. The record labels are greedy and don't know how to do business in an online world maybe should just get out of the business entirely!

    Um, no. Based on your concept, I should be able to buy a CD, burn 6000 copies and sell it. Because I bought the CD, I should be able to do whatever I want.

    Or, if you argue against that, maybe I should be able to take the song and remix/remaster it without permission. Or can I use it on an advertising promotion.

    The problem didn't start with the RIAA. They're trying to protect their assets/copyrights (and doing a S***** job of it in more ways then one). The problem of all this started in the Napster days, and continues on now (as based on your argument) that because you bought yourself a song, you then have the right to just give copies of it away to anyone and everyone you want.

    Fair use gives you the right to do with your copy of a piece of work. You can loan your copy to someone. You can sell it to someone. You can make a copy of it for 'personal' use. But it does not allow you to make other copies to hand out as you see fit.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. climacs

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Sep 2001

    -10

    christ

    i thought we were finally rid of the troll.

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    +9

    for the life of me

    i'll never understand these people who feel they have some kind of right to redistribute other people's works. the riaa has screwed up bigtime in their approach but basically they're right. it is not yours to do with as you see fit.

    i was at dinner at some friends and another guest stated that all music should be available for free. wow. so, who's going to pay the studio cost, electric bills, studio equipment, janitors and secretaries, rent, on and on... you know, the things required to make this music.

    how ridiculous.

    in my opinion music is the best deal out there. i bought a clash album in 1980 for $10. everytime i listen to it it's just as good. everytime it makes me feel great. all this great music and i can listen to it anytime i want. and i never ever have to buy it again. ever.

    try that with a great tasting steak. how about milk? run out? then run out and buy it again. running shoes worn out? go buy a new pair. car low on gas? you know what you have to do. lunch everyday at work? $7 to $8. day after day. worn a hole in your pants? baseball glove getting worn? socks got holes in them? buy buy buy.

    notice the word buy. over and over again. not with a music cd. one time you fork over the money and have a lifetime of pleasure.

  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999

    +4

    RE: fair use

    Um, no. Based on your concept, I should be able to buy a CD, burn 6000 copies and sell it. Because I bought the CD, I should be able to do whatever I want.

    Or, if you argue against that, maybe I should be able to take the song and remix/remaster it without permission. Or can I use it on an advertising promotion.



    I didn't read the full case, but I don't believe the defendant was making any money off of sharing the 24 songs on Kazaa. She wasn't selling bootlegs on the street for a profit. She wasn't making advertisements. She bought a CD, copied it to her computer, and let people download FREE copies. But I guess yeah, um, she deserves a $220,000 fine because she made how much money again? And how much money did RIAA lose over her doing that? Effectively, they're saying they have absolutely no idea, but $220,000 is about right. Boy, that sounds fair.

  1. rmoody

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008

    0

    music a good deal??

    My eye it's a good deal. $10 to $25 for 60 minutes of music...of which 10 or so is worth a dern. Whatever you say. Oh, and let's sue our customers while were at it. You don't see a restaurant suing their customers if they give away a french fry to someone that didn't buy anything do you? That's about where we are at with the RIAA. They have had ample time to embrace the internet as a way to sell music. Yet every time they do, what do we get? DRM, crappy quality, no physical media and a lot of time the price can be higher than buying it in a store. Now, I do believe that you should pay for the music, but the price is outrageous and I for one have not purchased a single song since AllOfMP3 went down. Price music accordingly and people will buy it, price it too high and well you get what's happening now. The RIAA could EASILY be distributing music online in lossless quality with no DRM for $.70 a song or less and still be making bank but that's not enough for them. They simply will not be happy until they can charge each person $5 per song, per listen, per thought, per day, etc. What they are after is a pay per use situation where they have a continuous stream of revenue and they want to force you to pay it with stupid things like media taxes and internet taxes that go to their coffers with no return of value to the people paying the taxes. This is the modern day equivalent of the Boston Tea Party, people being taxed unfairly with no resulting return from the taxation. Result...a revolt against the system. With the RIAA, if you give them a millimeter, they will take a light-year.

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    +2

    and you have

    something to base that 70 cents on? that's fair value according to who... you? based on what exactly? you have a breakdown for those outrageous prices - for all those janitors, electric bills, engineers, etc - to back that up? or is this just your best guess?

    media tax's? internet tax's? what are you on about? you got cable? ever look at your bill? how about a cell phone? look at that one? you think because you have a burr up your back end for one organization that they should be excluded from what every other industry has to put up with because you think it's unfair.

    a pay for use? good lord, where are you coming up with this stuff? more guessing?

    gee, i wonder what the restaurant would say if that person brought in their closes 5 million friends and started giving them free fries.

  1. nat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 2002

    +2

    and clearly

    you seem to have missed the point. it's not for 60 minutes of music. it's for a lifetime of music. and that's not a deal to you?

  1. ender

    Junior Member

    Joined: Mar 1999

    +2

    re: rmoody

    But if you give someone else your french fry, then you no longer have it. Hopefully you can see the difference between that and giving away copies of songs while you still retain your copy.

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