Most people who get threatened by the RIAA with a lawsuit opt to settle out of court. Maybe they should go to trial instead. Jammie Thomas of Minnesota did just that. She was found guilty of sharing 24 music files over the Kazaa network and ordered to pay $222,000 – that’s $9,250 per track. The decision came from a federal jury last year and marked the one and only trial win for the RIAA.
Well, yesterday the case was declared a mistrial as federal judge Michael Davis (Duluth, MN) admitted “that he may have committed a ‘manifest error of the law’,” according to Wired. The case will eventually be retried using different rules for what’s acceptable as evidence of copyright infringement.
In the initial trial, the fact that Thomas simply had music files inside of her Kazaa shared folder constituted evidence of copyright violation. Under the new trial, it must be proved that people actually downloaded those tracks. Unfortunately for Thomas, some of the RIAA’s detectives actually downloaded some of the songs out of her shared music folder.
Now the question becomes; if the RIAA itself downloads people’s shared music, does that count as unauthorized distribution? Only one other federal judge has ever ruled that yes, it does. The RIAA’s position is “that it shouldn’t have to provide proof of an actual transfer – because it’s impossible,” according to Wired. So the detectives take screenshots of the person’s folder and download the tracks themselves in order to prove that a transfer has indeed taken place.