Opposing lawyers in music downloading case offer arguments for, against a retrial
Duluth News Tribune
Published Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Lawyers for the recording industry claim that a Brainerd woman found liable for pirating music files should not be given a new trial — because doing so would blow a “gaping hole” in copyright law.
Attorneys on both sides of the first-ever file-sharing trial filed documents in U.S. District Court on Monday, arguing for and against a retrial.
In October, a jury decided Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe employee Jammie Thomas committed copyright infringement by sharing 24 music files on the KaZaA peer-to-peer file sharing network. She was ordered to pay $222,000 in damages.
But in May, Judge Michael J. Davis issued an order indicating he may allow a retrial of the case because he may have botched instructions to the jury.
Last fall, Davis instructed the12-person jury that making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network violated the owners’ copyright, regardless of whether actual distribution was shown. Davis has since found precedent from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that states infringement requires “an actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords.” Attorneys from both sides will attempt to convince Davis a new trial is required.
Thomas’ attorney, Brian Toder of Minneapolis, wrote that there is no evidence that anyone actually received the copied music files. “There is only evidence that [Thomas] attempted to distribute a copy,” he wrote.
And if the judge erred in making instructions, a new trial should be ordered, Toder argued.
But attorneys for the recording industry say a new trial isn’t necessary “because the verdict rests on unimpeachable findings of willful infringement.”
If Thomas cannot be held liable, they argue, copyright owners’ right to distribute their works would be “rendered worthless,” wrote Denver attorney Timothy Reynolds, who leads a team of lawyers representing Capitol Records Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, Warner Brothers Records Inc. and UMG Recordings Inc.
Oral arguments on Davis’ order are set to be heard Aug. 4.
Last year’s trial at the Duluth Federal Courthouse drew national attention, as it was the first time such a case went to a jury in the United States. The Recording Industry Association of America has filed more than 26,000 lawsuits against individuals allegedly downloading or distributing copyrighted music files.