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Verdict Reached In RIAA Trial

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  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:17PM (#20860755) Homepage
    Unfortunately inevitable, since there was really no defense contesting of the network forensics, or that the username in question just happened to be the same as the defendent's accounts on many other networks, that the system in question was connected to her cable modem, and using her IP address.

    Without such defense, a simple "preponderence of the evidence" (the criteria for a civil case) was inevitable.

    • by webmaster404 (1148909) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:24PM (#20860867)
      Still $222 THOUSAND dollars is outrageous for such a simple act. If Capital could prove that it hurt them for $222 thousand dollars it would be correct but at most it would have hurt them ~$100-200 at most. They should appeal this case and get a judge that doesn't inflict absurd penalties for simple acts. If Capital won a $300-$600 suit it would be justified but there is no way it could have hurt Capital for $222,000 and the worst part is the artists won't get a penny.
      • by j00r0m4nc3r (959816) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:29PM (#20860929)
        She will still end up paying $50k in legal fees, even if she wins an appeal. Just another reason to never do business with any RIAA entity ever again.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Does business != Illegal downloads.
          • by pootypeople (212497) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @10:31PM (#20862189)
            considering the record industry believes that ripping a cd is "stealing" and there are few sources for drm-free downloads, they've really got us all in an ugly catch-22. i've bought music online, and i've been burned too many times with the issues of compatibility. i have an xbox 360 and an ipod. if i want to be able to play my music on all the devices i own, it's either got to be mp3s that i "stole" by ripping my music collection or .aacs that i broke the DMCA by decrypting. if you buy the record company's line that ripping is "stealing" i cannot listen to the music i want to on the devices i own.

            i guess they're just trying as hard as hell to make sure i don't listen to new music (which they're doing anyways--all of it sucks!) and i don't spend any money beyond what i have already spent building my collection. i might by emi music because i can get that in a format that will play on both of my devices, but that leaves all the other riaa companies in the lurch.

            regardless, a $222,000 verdict for 24 songs is ridiculous. i haven't listened to a cd in my life that was worth $20,000 a song.
      • by stinerman (812158) <nathan...stine@@@gmail...com> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:33PM (#20861001) Homepage
        There is a case that challenges the constitutionality of such high fines. I believe our very own NewYorkCountryLaywer (912032) [slashdot.org] is counsel for the defendants.

        One thing you point out is paramount. Since this was a civil case, the fine should be only enough to promote equity rather than be punitive in nature.

        Another interesting thing is that, averaged out, this adds up to $9250 per infringement. At that price the defendant could have physically stolen about 600 copies of each work (assuming around $15 per work). So it pays to remember that the fines for physically stealing copyrighted works are much less than infringing on them.
        • by webmaster404 (1148909) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:47PM (#20861165)
          And thats the reason why the record companies are dying. They make "pirating" songs a ton easier then paying for them. Take for instance buying an iTunes song.

          1. Set up an account (Not that hard)
          2. Put money in your account (not hard at all)
          3. Hope they have a song you want (They might, they might not)
          4. Buy the song (Just takes a click)
          5. Put the song on your iPod (not hard)
          6. Put the song on your generic mp3 player (Oh wait you can't....)
          7. Play the song on Linux (Oh wait, I have to use restricted drivers....)
          8. Share the songs with your friends (Oh wait, it can only be copied to a certain amount of computers...)

          And downloading the song illegitimately

          1. Get the file (not hard unless you don't have seeders)
          2. Put the song on your mp3 player (not hard)
          3. Put the song on your Linux computer (you can usually get in .ogg format so not hard)
          4. Put the song on your iPod (easy)
          5. Share the songs (really easy)

          So besides price "pirating" songs has so many advantages that the RIAA and others stupidly ignore in support of more DRM and higher prices rather then making it much easier for people to download and share songs, after all, your not going to buy a song if you haven't heard it for free somewhere else.
          • by Smeagel (682550) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:03PM (#20861325)
            I would completely agree with this. Since the inception of emusic my online downloading has gone down significantly, and even more significantly very recently now that Amazon has some major label MP3 downloads.

            What the RIAA doesn't understand is that a LOT of people are perfectly willing to pay for the songs, we just don't want to pay for copies of them that we don't have control over. I run Linux on all my computers and my work is a linux shop, DRM'ed music is hardly even an option (not that I would pay for it if I could, I'd get a CD in a second over a DRM'ed piece of crap).
          • by Anonymous Custard (587661) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:51PM (#20861815) Homepage Journal
            It's not as hard anymore, if you avoid iTunes Music Store.

            1. Set up an account - at Amazon MP3 Music Store [amazon.com], MP3Tunes [mp3tunes.com], eMusic [emusic.com], others in time...
            2. Hope they have a song you want (they might, they might not... probably not yet)
            3. Buy the song (Just takes a click or two)
            4. Put the song on any mp3 player (done, no drm at these stores!)
            5. Play the song on Linux (well, need an mp3 codec but whatev, you need one in windows too)
            6. Share the songs with your friends (Complaining that it's hard to share songs with your friends is the whole purpose of DRM. If you'd respect copyright and let your friends buy their own MP3's, we wouldn't need DRM. You're not legally allowed to redistribute copyrighted songs without authorization from the copyright holder - that goes way beyond fair use imho)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Bonewalker (631203)
          Parent's comments are right on. Why is it physically stealing something tangible, and taking away a definite sale the record label stood to make, is so much less important than a potential sale, the copying of a song, in this case about one album's worth, especially for no monetary gain? If we and Jammie Thompson aren't being strong-armed into submission by those with money and lawyers, no one ever has been or will be.
          • by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @11:31PM (#20862711) Journal

            Why is it physically stealing something tangible, and taking away a definite sale the record label stood to make, is so much less important than a potential sale, the copying of a song, in this case about one album's worth, especially for no monetary gain?
            Instead of modding you down, I will hazard an answer:
            Physically stealing something tangible (eg a CD) is so much less important because it is so much "harder". The risk from stealing an object is physical and is already accounted for in law. The risk from downloading/distributing 0s & 1s is... nothing.

            The only way to equalize this imbalance is with a financial cost. You may not agree with the size of the statuatory penalty, but it's hard to disagree with the idea that there should be some punishment.

            To put it in perspective, imagine how hard it would be to physically rip $220,000 worth of CDs, in comparison to filling up your bittorrent queue and then seeding.
        • by PhysicsPhil (880677) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:53PM (#20861221)

          One thing you point out is paramount. Since this was a civil case, the fine should be only enough to promote equity rather than be punitive in nature.

          Another interesting thing is that, averaged out, this adds up to $9250 per infringement. At that price the defendant could have physically stolen about 600 copies of each work (assuming around $15 per work). So it pays to remember that the fines for physically stealing copyrighted works are much less than infringing on them.

          This was actually addressed in the Ars Technica writeup of the case. Normally the damages for copyright infringement are a few hundred dollars ($300 max rings a bell). In the case of willful infringement, however, damages can increase up to $150,000 per incident. The jury found that the defendant had engaged in such willful infringement, and could have awarded up to $3.6 million ($150,000 for each of 24 songs being distributed).

          • Normally the damages for copyright infringement are a few hundred dollars ($300 max rings a bell). In the case of willful infringement, however, damages can increase up to $150,000 per incident.

            The normal range for statutory damages is $750 to $30,000. The defendant can try to get the minimum lowered to as little as $200 (in ordinary cases) though this is usually difficult. Or (as these are mutually exclusive) the plaintiff can try to get the maximum raised to as much as $150,000, and usually has an easier
        • by Anonymous Coward
          The law allows for a much higher award per song for willful violation. The $9k was well below the midpoint. Compensatory damages replace the actual damages and punative damages are meant to punish the violator.

          I think that juries hate to be lied to. She clearly came across as a liar. I suspect there had to be a better defense. Such as admitting to downloading a few songs but not understanding that her music would be uploaded.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dak RIT (556128)
      Perhaps it's time to start reminding juries in these kinds of cases of their right to Jury Nullification [wikipedia.org].

      Just because the facts are not in despite (effectively proving somebody did something that violates the written letter of the law) does not mean that a jury must also be compelled to render a guilty verdict. A jury has the authority to question both the merits of the case and the law itself when rendering its verdict, although nobody ever informs juries of this right. Jury Nullification played a major

    • by ruiner13 (527499) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:21PM (#20861553) Homepage
      God they have balls. According to this Wired article [wired.com], the lawyer for the RIAA actually said "This is what can happen if you don't settle.". If that in itself isn't proof that all they are trying to do is extort people, I don't know what is.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by adminstring (608310)
        This makes me wonder if they didn't pay her not to settle, so they'd have a nice example to show to everyone else. It's been pointed out many times in this forum that her case was weak from the start, and that she spent $60k defending herself (very badly.) Why would she do this if she weren't on the RIAA's payroll? I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but that's my best theory at this point.

        Someone please correct me with some solid evidence that I'm wrong! I don't want to be right about this..
  • Appeal fund? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tacarat (696339) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:20PM (#20860815) Journal
    I wonder if she'll be allowed to pay the settlement like the recording industry did theirs. In unpopular CDs that cost pennies to make but apply to the fine at retail price.
  • 12 peers? HA! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Libertarian001 (453712) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:20PM (#20860821)
    I've always believed, naively perhaps, that juries usually got it right. How freaking brain-dead do these people have to be? $220K for 24 songs? That's $9250 per song! That's substantially more than what the RIAA was claiming they lost on each instance (unless I mis-remembered?).

    For music.

    This jury of 12 idiots decided to ruin someone's life for 24 songs. Great going, guys.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Erris (531066)

      This jury of 12 idiots decided to ruin someone's life for 24 songs. Great going, guys.

      Remember that one of the purposes of juries is to override corrupt government and bad laws. The defendant was guilty technically but morally innocent. Juries deliberate in private for just this reason - they can agree to return a not guilty verdict when the law outrages them. The law exists to reflect the community's sense of outrage at misconduct. When conduct does not elicit outrage, juries need to be brave enough

    • Two points (Score:4, Informative)

      by Valdrax (32670) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:58PM (#20861271)
      1. Juries generally take the damages amount suggested by the plaintiff in a civil trial. Most people have no idea how much a random tort is really worth and just take their word for it.

      2. Juries in America are specifically picked to exclude anyone in the slightest bit knowledgeable about the activity in question (to avoid both bias and to avoid questioning the testimony of expert witnesses due to -- right or wrong -- assumption about the dispute in question), and they are picked to avoid people who have done similar crimes in the past (again for bias reasons).

      Pretty much the only people in America who haven't downloaded a song illegally are people who thing it's inherently immoral or unethical. These people would not be sympathetic to the defendant.

      Now we get to see where this goes on appeal.
  • by spirit_fingers (777604) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:23PM (#20860861)
    Frankly, as much as I loathe the RIAA, Thomas' story simply didn't hold up. The prosecution was able to prove that in an attempt to evade prosecution, she had replaced her hard drive shortly after receiving a warning notice from the RIAA, not before as she claimed.

    It's a shame that the defendant of this first RIAA jury trial turned out to be a liar with a bogus defense. But apparently, that's who she was. Given the facts brought out in the case, I don't see how the jury could have found for the defense.
  • Boycott or shut up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashkossucks (1160093) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:26PM (#20860889)
    I challenge Slashdot to boycott the US recording and movie industry... either that or stop whining...
  • by JakiChan (141719) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:28PM (#20860913)

    I think it's time to find the houses of the RIAA executives, hack their wireless, and share from them. Capture the data and send it to the RIAA and say "Hey, please sue them."
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:31PM (#20860963) Homepage
    This seems like a fairly open and shut case, so I'm not sure I understand the confusion here.

    Prosecution:

    ...her user name, IP address, Modem MAC address, pass-word-protected computer, and the songs in the shared folder matched her musical tastes.

    ...Thomas replaced the hard drive in her computer two weeks after an investigation.
    Defendant:
    Tried to get the RIAA president to testify, who has nothing to do with the facts of the case.

    ...There could have been a computer party at Thomas's home or someone could have been outside her window with a laptop.

    ...suggested that computer hacking or IP spoofing could as explanations.
    The RIAA had facts, and the defendant had excuses. I know everyone wants to defend the little guy, but please pick a better case than this one to represent the people. The only thing I see odd here is the fines. THAT is ridiculous.
  • "Music has value" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BearRanger (945122) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:32PM (#20860983)
    As the RIAA lawyer stated. I agree. A few generations ago people quite happily made their own, and played it for the enjoyment of their family and friends. If you believe, as I do, that music is an essential part of what it means to be human I strongly encourage you to get out and make some. Give it away. Invite your friends to listen. Bring your instruments to Slashdot parties. Whatever it takes. Just don't *buy* any from the current music cartels.

    Boycott the record companies into extinction.

    Somewhere along the line people who are capable of being artists (i.e. each of us) were reduced to being "consumers". It's time we stop just accepting this as a matter of course.
  • by Lunarsight (1053230) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @08:40PM (#20861069) Homepage
    We can sit around in forums, yapping non-stop about how horrid the RIAA is, or we can really begin to take the fight to them. I think it's time we do that. Let's do everything we possibly can to tarnish their reputation. Sadly, despite treating consumers like crap, a lot of music fans still follow them around like puppy dogs. A good starting point is to target Youtube. Universal Music Group has an account they use to post videos of their artists. These music videos can be rated. Comments can be left for them. Let's all go there and give them the lowest rating possible. Let's fill the comments section with relevant information about the unethical tactics groups like the UMG are using against consumers. If they play dirty, it seems MORE than fair that we RETURN THE FAVOR. Why should we respond to them with kid gloves? They certainly wouldn't do that for us.
  • by tjasond (680156) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:12PM (#20861439)
    ... as soon as the judge backtracked this morning and ruled that "making available" was adequate evidence to demonstrate a violation of the copyright holder's rights. From Ars:

    "Instruction no. 14 proved to be a sticking point, as Thomas' counsel Brian Toder told Ars tonight that the judge's proposed instruction indicated that the plaintiffs must show that an actual transfer took place in order for there to be a finding of infringement. "

    Later, the judge reversed his opinion, at which point I knew this was over, but was at least still hopeful that the damages would be somewhat reasonable.

    According to the coverage at Ars, it was pretty clear that the RIAA had found the right person; they had used this same account name for an email address that a witness had verified was hers. The only remaining question in my mind was how well the making available argument would hold up before a jury. Unfortunately, it appeared as though the defense didn't focus any attention on this critical part of the prosecution's argument (until the 11th hour when the judge was deciding what instructions to give the jury for deliberations). Had the defense been pounding the drum of "making available is not provable infringement" instead of "let me show you how fast you can rip a CD", then this jury (and perhaps even the judge with respect to the jury instructions) may have been compelled to decide differently.

    In any event, it is what it is. The RIAA set their desired precedent, but for me there are still a couple of lingering questions:

    1. Is this really a good thing for the RIAA? I mean, we've heard about the lawsuit threats against dead people, grandmas, and kids, but now there is an actual verdict in a jury trial that pins a $220K judgment against a single mother. I have this feeling that this case is going to make much greater waves in the main stream media then the no-go lawsuit threats (dismissed with/without prejudice) or the tens of thousands of settlement cases. Because of this I also think there is a huge potential for blowback on a large scale, not just in the geek circles.

    2. Does the judge have any discretion to lower the damages? It seems as though he's given the defense every opportunity to succeed, from the "this courtroom is not your soap box" comments to the RIAA, to initially requiring evidence of a file transfer actually taking place in the jury instructions. If he does have discretion, I would be surprised if he didn't use it.

    All in all, this is a sad situation. Single mother, probably with little to no idea what she was doing, targeted by the RIAA, then levied with enough fines to ruin her life. The RIAA, a lawsuit happy organization continuing to rob artists, consumers, and own our government, are having a champagne toast tonight thanks to their victory in court today. Enjoy your victory, and as far as "setting a precedent," you should be careful what you wish for.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:19PM (#20861521)

    "This is what can happen if you don't settle," RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel told reporters outside the courthouse.

    Notice how they throw in an impassioned plea to roll over and take it? This court case is nothing about justice - it's an extension to their protection racket. (quote from here) [wired.com]

    When, oh when, will somebody step in and nail these guys with a RICO suit? [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pete6677 (681676)
      Just because you don't like it doesn't mean its subject to a RICO suit. Read the site you linked to. RIAA actions do not in any way qualify under RICO statutes.
      • Sure it is. Read a link from the article - racketeering. [wikipedia.org]

        A quote:

        Typically, this usage is based on the example of the "protection racket" and indicates that the speaker believes that the business is making money by selling a solution to a problem that it created (or that it intentionally allows to continue to exist), specifically so that continuous purchases of the solution are always needed. Example: in a protection racket, a representative from the racket informs a storeowner that a fee of X dollars

  • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... Hl.com minus cat> on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:24PM (#20861579) Homepage Journal
    This is a public announcement. From now on, i will NOT buy ANY original movie or piece of music EVER.

    Now sue me.
  • by jkinney3 (535278) on Thursday October 04, 2007 @09:36PM (#20861675)
    I keep hearing about this process and I don't understand why the bright people on /. don't get a clue.
    The ONLY thing the morons at RIAA will ever understand is a cash flow interruption. But to make this work, everyone has to be in on it. No file sharing, turn it all off for one week, no music purchases of any kind, turn off the radios, don't listen to any form of recorded music.
    It's not a hard thing to imagine. Maybe the better thing to do is to stop being a consumer and start being a creator. Get an instrument and make your own music!
    Then you can give it away on KaZaa.
    So if you get upset about what RIAA does to protect their cash flow, get off your butt and stop playing their game. Start playing a new game. Make your own music.
    And quit whining about RIAA. There are bigger issues ahead beyond "I can't listen to what ever music I want. I must be entertained at all times."
  • by Anarchitect_in_oz (771448) on Friday October 05, 2007 @12:57AM (#20863445)
    The artists of songs that where infringed should find a nice lawyer to make sure they get their cut.
  • A wakeup call (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer (912032) * <ray@nosPAm.beckermanlegal.com> on Friday October 05, 2007 @01:30AM (#20863709) Homepage Journal
    A verdict of $222,000.00, for infringement of 24 song files worth a total of $23.76?

    In a case where there was zero evidence of the defendant having transferred any of those files?.

    It is one of the most irrational things I have ever seen in my life in the law.

    If the Judge doesn't set aside the verdict sua sponte, I expect there to be motion practice to set aside the verdict, based on its obvious unconstitutionality and numerous other reasons, and if that fails I expect there to be a successful appeal.

    It is an outrage, and I hope it is a wakeup call to the world that we all need to start supporting the defendants in these cases, and the attorneys who are sacrificing so much to represent them. And the support cannot be with words, it must be with check books. And it cannot be next year, it must be now.

    All the business people who make a living from the vibrancy, democracy, and freedom of expression which is the internet, need to get behind the RIAA's victims; if they do not, the world in which they hope to thrive and prosper will disappear rapidly.

    The RIAA ghouls smelled blood in Duluth, and I guess they were right.

    But it isn't over.

Today's scientific question is: What in the world is electricity? And where does it go after it leaves the toaster? -- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

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