Judge Tosses Out $222,000 Verdict Against Mom Accused Of File Sharing

The only jury verdict against a file-sharer has been thrown out by U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minnesota, who declared a mistrial because he had committed “manifest error of the law” by instructing the jury that “that the recording industry did not have to prove anybody downloaded the songs from Thomas’ open Kazaa share folder.”

Davis has now ordered a retrial.

From Wired’s Threat Level blog:

The RIAA, which is the music industry’s lobbying and litigation arm, fought hard to keep Jury Instruction No. 15 in play. The group told the judge that copyright infringement on peer-to-peer networks is implied, and that it shouldn’t have to provide proof of an actual transfer — because it’s impossible.

“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.

The judge also took issue with the amount of the verdict.

“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.”

Judge Declares Mistrial in RIAA-Jammie Thomas Trial [Wired Threat Level]
(Photo: AP)

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.