Judge Declares Mistrial In RIAA File-Sharing Victory
September 24, 2008 at 5:19 PM (PT)
U.S. District Judge MICHAEL DAVIS has declared a mistrial in the case of JAMMIE THOMAS, a MINNESOTA mother of three who was convicted of illegal file-sharing and hit with a $222,000 fine by a federal jury last year. WIREDNEWS.COM reports that it was the and only federal jury verdict against a P2P file sharer for distributing copyrighted music without the labels' authorization.
DAVIS threw out the verdict because he now believes a jury instruction --that jurors they could find unauthorized distribution simply for "making copyrighted sound recordings available" over a P2P network "regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown." After notifying both parties last month that he was mulling over his initial decision, DAVIS just made it official and ordered a retrial -- one with different jury instructions.
The RIAA can still press its case against THOMAS, as DAVIS ruled that the 24 downloads from THOMAS' open share folder that RIAA investigators made "can form the basis of an infringment claim."
The judge also complained that the award the jury rendered against THOMAS was too much and that Congress should change the law. "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 to the damages suffered by plaintiffs. 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 -- more than 500 times the cost of buying 24 separate CDs and more than 4,000 times the cost of three CDs."