Thursday, September 25, 2008

RIAA victory turned back

The RIAA has, so far, only once had a federal jury deliver a guilty verdict in a file sharing case.

And now - without anyone asking him to - the judge in that case has turned up and stolen that victory back. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minnesota has declared a mistrial after thinking about some of the instructions he gave the jury.

The key issue is whether the RIAA needs to prove that the accused - in this case Jammie Thomas - had done what she was accused of. You and I might think that this might be a basic requirement of the law, but at trial, Judge Davis had bought the music industry's argument that it would be too difficult:

"Requiring proof of actual transfers would cripple efforts to enforce copyright owners' rights online – and would solely benefit those who seek to freeload off plaintiff's investment," RIAA attorney Timothy Reynolds said in a court filing.

Clearly, Judge Davis suddenly realised what they'd said - and how if you can't actually prove that the person has done what they're supposed to, in what way has it hurt you? "Your honour, I cannot prove that the accused cut me, for I have no scars, but you just have to take my word for it..."?

At the same time, Davis took the chance to point out that the settlement demanded by the jury - nearly a quarter of a million bucks - was just taking the piss:
"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. 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."

So, that's now no jury trial victories for the RIAA. How much have they spent on this fools' mission so far?


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