On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minnesota, declared a mistrial in the case of Jammie Thomas (pictured), the only person to take an RIAA lawsuit to trial (all others have settled out of court). She lost her trial last year, but Davis, who presided in that trial, ruled that he erred during jury instructions and set aside the judgment, calling it a mistrial.
In his ruling, Davis said:
"Jury Instruction No. 15 was erroneous, and that error substantially
prejudiced Thomas' rights. Based on the court's error in instructing
the jury, it grants Thomas a new trial."
Instruction 15 said:
The act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic
distribution on a peer-to-peer network, without license from the
copyright owners, violates the copyright owners’ exclusive right of
distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown.
In his ruling, Davis also noted the ridiculous amount of the penalties assessed against Thomas, $222,000 for 24 songs (!). That's nearly 10K per song! As Davis said:
"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."
The RIAA can now drop the case (not likely), appeal the ruling, or begin a new trial. What do you readers think of this new ruling, BTW?