10/4/07 RIAA Jury Finds Minnesota Woman Liable for Piracy, Awards $222,000 (Wired)
10/4/07 'Did She or Didn't She' File-Sharing Case Goes to Jury" (E Commerce Times)
10/3/07 Defendant's counsel hammers away at piracy picture painted by RIAA (Ars Technica)
RIAA anti-P2P campaign a real money pit, according to testimony (Ars Technica)
The Recording Industry Association of America's first piracy trial went before a jury here Tuesday, with the industry's attorney urging panelists "to hold the defendant responsible for her actions."
Attorney Richard Gabriel, addressing 12 jurors in a dimly lit cement-block courtroom, said, "The record companies are made up of real people."
The Copyright Act case is the first of over 20,000 the labels have lodged across the nation to go before a jury. Many have settled, have been dismissed or are pending since the RIAA launched it's zero-tolerance piracy litigation campaign four years ago.
It's a cloudy, balmy day here. The gallery is filled with about two dozen onlookers, many of them journalists, students and lawyers watching a case that could set precedent on the evidence required for jurors to find somebody liable of copyright infringement over the internet.
Defendant Jammie Thomas, a 30-year-old single mother of two who works at a nearby Indian reservation, could be forced to pay nearly $4 million in damages. She's accused of unlawfully uploading 25 copyrighted works from some of the biggest names in the industry. Her defense is simple: She didn't do it and the industry must prove she was behind the internet protocol (IP) address the RIAA says was used to share 1,700 songs on the file-sharing site Kazaa in 2005.
"The plaintiffs don't have the evidence that she downloaded anything," Thomas' attorney, Brian Toder told jurors. "The best that they can come up with is somebody out there in cyberland ... offered on Kazaa some copyrighted material."
The industry in this case is only suing over 25 songs, with damages up to $150,000 per violation, because it doesn't want to exact too big of financial penalties by going for all 1,700, testified Jennifer Pariser, Sony BMG's anti-piracy chief. "The damages would be substantial," she said. "We have no intent in pursing cases like that."
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis is quickly moving the case along. Twelve jurors, six men and six women, were chosen in about 70 minutes early Tuesday. Pariser, the first witness, was immediately called after lawyers gave their brief, opening arguments. During jury selection, panelists did not appear computer savvy. Five of them have a digital music player and only three knew where they got the music for it -- from iTunes. One juror, a construction foreman, said he had never been on the internet. One juror was excused who said she had used a peer-to-peer site to download copyrighted music.
Testimony, including from the defendant, former RIAA executive Cary Sherman and other industry insiders is expected to last through the week.
Pariser testified that hijacked music and purchased music sound the same, at least with the recordings in question. She played for jurors about 30 seconds of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."
Not surprisingly, both versions of the Sony-copyrighted tune -- the purchased one, and the downloaded copy --sounded the same. Pariser, in the witness stand, briefly weaved back and forth to the melody, while the gallery and jury box sat stone faced.
There were originally 26 songs at issue. But recording-company Virgin Records withdrew Janet Jackson's "Back" from the lawsuit.
Other songs at issue include Guns N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle", Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last," and Janet Jackson's "Let's Wait a While."
Remaining plaintiffs, who are RIAA members, include: Capitol Records, Sony BMG, Arista Records, Interscope Records, Warner Bros. Records and UMG Recordings.
By David Kravets
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