Judge Tosses RIAA Victory; Glare Continues on Making Available

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United States District Judge Michael J. Davis has now discarded a major court victory for the RIAA, one that saddled a defendant with a massive, $222,000 fine.

In early October of last year, a Minnesota jury issued the fine after hearing a rather flimsy file-sharing defense from Jammie Thomas, one that attempted to disguise rather obvious infringement.

But the infringement in question related to file uploading instead of downloading – in other words, making content available on peer-to-peer networks for others to download.  Instead of witnessing Thomas actually downloading songs, the RIAA simulated the transfer of songs from Thomas’ hard drive through its investigatory agent, MediaSentry.

That caused Davis to reconsider, and ultimately call for a retrial.  “The parties agree that the only evidence of actual dissemination of copyrighted works was that Plaintiffs’ agent, MediaSentry, copied songs,” the judge wrote in court documents filed this week.  “Thomas retorts that dissemination to an investigator acting as an agent for the copyright owner cannot constitute infringement.”

Davis also calling into the question the massive fines involved, especially for an individual.  “Her status as a consumer who was not seeking to harm her competitors or make a profit does not excuse her behavior,” Davis opined.  “But it does make the award of hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages unprecedented and oppressive.”  Additionally, the judge called for changes in existing copyright law to prevent similarly massive fines for individuals.