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First Music Download Trial Verdict May Get Overturned

Late last year, Jammie Thomas was found guilty by a Minnesota jury of pirating music and violating the record companies' copyrights in that music, and ordered to pay $220,000.  Next month, she may get a new trial.

Ruling from the bench right before the October 2007 trial, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis agreed with the record industry lawyers and issued a jury instruction that said making sound recordings available without the record companies' permission violates their copyrights "regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown."

Thomas' lawyers argued that only the record company downloaded the music allegedly copied by Thomas, and that no actual distribution occurred.  In reconsidering his ruling, Judge Davis indicated that a case relied on by the record companies was recently vacated.  Hearings are set for next month on the issue.

Meanwhile, there's no clear guidance on this point.  District Courts across the country are issuing contrary rulings, which may require an appellate opinion to resolve the disputes.

Typically, a copyright violation requires republication, a sale or some other type of use.  Music download advocates argue that copying for personal use is not a copyright violation, while some record companies take the opposite position. 

Meanwhile, stay tuned, and don't click on that copy button. 

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, May 16, 2008

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