Federal judge grants woman new trial on music piracy charges

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Minnesota [official website] Wednesday ordered [decision, PDF] a new trial for a woman who had been ordered to pay [JURIST report] $222,000 to record companies for illegally posting copyrighted music on the file-sharing network Kazaa [corporate website]. Jammie Thomas had sought the new trial on the grounds that the court erred by instructing the jury [instructions, PDF] that making the music available on the network alone was enough to violate the Copyright Act [text], and that the damages imposed against her were excessive. Judge Michael Davis granted the request, holding that the plaintiff, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [association website], would have to persuade the jury that others had actually accessed the songs in order to recover from Thomas. Without reaching the issue of whether or not the damages were excessive, Judge Davis urged Congress to distinguish damage amounts reasonable for personal users from those assessed for commercial use:

The Court would be remiss if it did not take this opportunity to implore Congress to amend the Copyright Act to address liability and damages in peer?to?peer network cases such as the one currently before this Court. The Court begins its analysis by recognizing the unique nature of this case. The defendant is an individual, a consumer. She is not a business. She sought no profit from her acts. The myriad of copyright cases cited by Plaintiffs and the Government, in which courts upheld large statutory damages awards far above the minimum, have limited relevance in this case. All of the cited cases involve corporate or business defendants and seek to deter future illegal commercial conduct. The parties point to no case in which large statutory damages were applied to a party who did not infringe in search of commercial gain.
AP has more. Wired has additional coverage.

In March, another woman being sued by RIAA sought class action status [amended complaint; JURIST report] for a counterclaim [case materials] against the RIAA, several recording companies, and data investigation company MediaSentry [corporate website] for allegedly using unscrupulous tactics as part of an RIAA anti-piracy campaign. Record companies filed over 26,000 lawsuits between 2003 and 2007 over file-sharing [JURIST news archive], resulting in small settlements for most cases, including 8,000 cases filed against 17 defendants [JURIST report] worldwide in October 2006.

 

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