Tuesday, May 12, 2009

No settlement in Jammie Thomas case; retrial set for June 15 in peer-to-peer case

Back to Duluth!

The eyes of the copyright world will once again be focused on that northern Minnesota burg after a court-ordered settlement conference failed to resolve the Jammie Thomas peer-to-peer infringement case -- the only one of the approximately 30,000 cases filed by the labels against individual p2p users that has actually gone to trial so far.

Reports Wired:

Thomas’ lawyer, Brian Toder, and RIAA lawyers met privately in a Minnesota federal court for two hours haggling over the case. No conclusion was reached (.pdf). Thomas has maintained she would never settle. A retrial is set for June 15.

“What they wanted to do, my client did not want to do,” Toder said in a telephone interview. He declined to disclose the RIAA’s financial demands.

The first Thomas trial ended in late 2007 with a verdict for the plaintiffs and a $222,000 statutory damages award against Thomas for infringing 24 songs. Thomas claimed that a mysterious lurker had used her wireless network to download the songs, but, as Wired deadpanned at the time:
Expert testimony from an RIAA witness...showed that a wireless router was not used, casting doubt on her defense that a hacker lurking outside her apartment window with a laptop might have framed her, he said.
One juror called Thomas a "liar" in a post-verdict press interview, and 2 wanted to impose maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per work before the jury settled on the figure of $9,250. However, the court threw out the entire verdict after determining that his jury instruction on the so-called "making available" theory of liability was foreclosed by Eighth Circuit precedent.

June could be an awfully busy month for the labels' litigators; Judge Nancy Gertner in the Joel Tenenbaum case has told the parties to expect trial date as early as late June, though I suspect that delays produced by the webcast imbroglio will necessitate pushing that out.

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