RIAA Defendant: Best Buy Replaced My Hard Drive During Warranty Repair

The RIAA defendant who lost her jury trial, Jammie Thomas, is telling her side of the story on p2pnet. Of particular interest: She claims that Best Buy made the decision to replace her hard drive, under the terms of her extended warranty, 6 months before she was served with the RIAA’s subpoena.

I have read many comments and articles that I had my hard drive replaced after I learned of my suit. This could not be further from the truth. What most people don’t know, if I did have my hard drive replaced after I was served the initial complaint to this suit, that would be considered spoliation of evidence, which is a criminally prosecutable offense. All the following dates, keep in mind so you can see the timeline yourself.

The day MediaSentry (the RIAAs ‘investigative’ company) said I was caught illegally sharing songs over KaZaa was February 21, 2005. My computer crashed approximately 2 weeks later. The only reason I know why it crashed is this: my boys were playing a video game and in the middle of some epic battle on their game, the computer froze up, then the screen went black, and in my child’s frustration, the side of the computer was smacked. After that, the computer would not load and I would receive error messages.

I brought my computer into Best Buy for repairs on March 7, 2005. Remember, I brought it in for repairs under the extended warranty, not to have the hard drive replaced. And if anyone who has used a large chain electronic store to repair their electrical equipment knows, these companies do not replace hard drives on the whim of the customer if they have to pay for the hard drive replacement covered under warranty. They try to do whatever is cheaper for the company, which normally means fixing the issues with the hard drive. With my hard drive, the issues couldn’t be fixed so Best Buy, not me but Best Buy, made the decision to replace the hard drive.

The RIAA didn’t subpoena my personal information from Charter until late April 2005, almost 2 months AFTER my hard drive was replaced. As with all RIAA subpoenas to ISPs, I was not notified of the court date when the subpoena was issued. I was only notified after Charter Communications was served with the subpoena. This letter came late April 2005, again 2 months AFTER my hard drive was replaced. I didn’t officially hear from the RIAA until late August 2005, almost 6 months AFTER my hard drive was replaced. The lawsuit itself wasn’t officially started until April 2006, over 1 year AFTER my hard drive was replaced.

As you can see, I did not replace my hard drive to hide any evidence of anything. The replacement wasn’t my choice and I would have to be psychic to know 2 months in advance my personal information was going to be subpoenaed and a year later, I would be sued.

Yes, all this information was given to the jury during the trial. The main problem that arose concerning my hard drive was the date I gave my attorney for when the hard drive was replaced. I didn’t check the records for Best Buy before I gave my hard drive to Mr. Toder, so when I told him the hard drive had been replaced, the date I gave was January or February of 2004. Obviously, after we received all the information from Best Buy, we saw that the hard drive was replaced in March 2005. We also found out I didn’t even own the computer until March 2004, one month after the date I told my attorney.

The “replaced hard drive” was the RIAA’s basis for claiming that Ms. Thomas concealed the evidence of her copyright infringement, and was cited as the reason that the RIAA could not produce any actual evidence of file-sharing. The lawsuit concluded when a judge ordered Ms. Thomas to pay $222,000 for allegedly sharing 24 songs.

This story raises some interesting questions about the implications of surrendering broken hard drives to retailers like Best Buy. Interesting questions, and scary ones, too.

Jammie Thomas: her story in her own words [p2pnet](Thanks, David!)