Thursday, October 04, 2007

RIAA Wins in First-Ever Jury Trial; Verdict of $222,000 for 24 Song Files Worth $23.76

The first-ever jury trial for the RIAA, in Vrigin v. Thomas (renamed Capitol v. Thomas after Virgin Records withdrew from case), has resulted in a verdict against the defendant, Jammie Thomas, in the amount of $220,000.

Associated Press
Ars Technica

[Editorial opinion: I'm sorry to hear that Ms. Thomas lost, but I don't think the case is over by a long shot; the verdict -- based as it upon an entirely erroneous jury instruction going to the very heart of the case -- will almost definitely be set aside on appeal.-R.B.]

[Editor's Note: I can't provide further coverage tonight because I have to leave to get to my Kung Fu class. It's important that I maintain my health and fitness. I have a lot of RIAA-fighting ahead of me.]

[Editor's Note: I wonder if the RIAA lawyers ever brought it to the attention of Judge Davis that their favorite case, Atlantic v. Howell, was vacated.].

Commentary & discussion:
Punto Informatico (Italian)
Heise Online (German)
Wall Street Journal
Jurist Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Law
C/Net News
Computer World
Patry Copyright Blog
Wall Street Journal
Technology & Marketing Law Blog
Digital Daily
Download Squad
Digital Media Wire
Channel 3000
Michael Geist
Good Morning Silicon Valley
FutureZone (German)
Tribune de Geneve (French)
ABC 7Online (Magyar)
PC World
Online Media Daily
The Hackenblog
NPR "All Things Considered" (Guest Eric Bangeman of Ars Technica)(Direct link to radio program)
gulli (German)
The Huffington Post
Portal IT
Rolling Stone

Keywords: digital copyright online law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs


Unknown said...

The RIAA is potentially putting a family out of their home. I hope they sleep well at night.

I have other comments but they run afoul of the comment rules and some local laws on obscenities and communicating threats.

Scott said...

I hope the RIAA starts gloating and crowing to the press about this obscene verdict. This is going to turn into a PR nightmare for them. The shock value of a quarter million dollar judgment will actually damage the record industry's credibility more than if they won just $1 per song. They got what they wanted, and what they wanted was unconscionable.

The RIAA is certain to have fewer friends in Congress when this plays out fully. Jammie Thomas' Congressman is 17-term Democrat Jim Oberstar. Jim owes a lot more to the Ojibwa people on Mille Lacs than he does to the record industry. Oberstar's constituents should be writing to him today to express their outrage.

One other observation: The jury was all white, and Jammie is Ojibwa. In spite of Minnesota's somewhat undeserved reputation as a bastion of liberalism, relations between white people and native people in the north are often not good. (Recurring friction points are hunting and fishing rights; and the perceived prosperity of native casinos in a fairly poor area of the state.) The racial composition of the jury is DEFINITELY a factor and should not be overlooked.

MikeWas said...

I think this verdict is a disaster for both plaintiffs and defendant. A quarter-million-dollar judgment against a relatively innocuous infringer - taking the jury's verdict at face value - is bound to cause a backlash and makes statutory reform in the people's interest a bit more likely.

Also, given the size of the verdict, the defendant has absolutely nothing to lose by appealing the "making available" instruction, which seems like it must have been the basis for the jury verdict. Also, the vacation of the Howell case might be the basis for significant post-judgment relief.

I wonder how Richard Gabriel sleeps at night. Perhaps having sold one's soul to the Prince of Lies has a somnolent effect.

Nohwhere Man said...

If I understand jury instruction #14 and the decision correctly, by merely offering a sound recording for loan a library is 'making it available' and are thus infringing. The same with one person loaning a disk or book to a friend. There's even the possibly more extreme case of leaving a CD out on the front step overnight- someone could pick it up, burn a copy, and return it.

I'm also curious whether the plaintiff was able to demonstrate standing to sue in the first place (chain of copyright and assignments of rights). Was that addressed at trial at all?

I do hope this is appealed. Perhaps the EFF will step in to help.

Art said...

It is a sad, sad day for justice!!!

I'll be sending a check to her attorney to help with the costs and hopefully for an appeal...

The jury instructions are in the Wired article, or directly here.

I think, as Ray mentions, that the "making available" instruction is core to the matter. The instructions also lead jurors to believe the Sony VP who said that ripping a CD is theft. I guess "fair use" has been repealed or something and we didn't know about it. So with this logic, just by having Jammie rip the CDs in court, she was breaking the law. There's also the constitutionality of the award, it should be cut down to $24 on appeal.


raybeckerman said...

Deleted several comments as off topic.

Deleted one comment because it made incorrect statements about what happened at the trial.

Dragon said...

We should let the RIAA know this is rediculous. I propose a boycott on buying their music.

For most of the people that download these songs for free, the reason is because they can't afford to go out and buy the cd's they want at the price that is charged for them.

I suspect if people suddenly stopped buying the cds altogether, the prices on these cds might go down.

Or the RIAA would go after people for more money to make up their losses from the boycott.