Music downloading revisited

It took a lot of tries for the recording industry to get anywhere in the courts trying to stop the downloading of music. Now they’ve lost its only big jury-decided win. A federal judge in Minneapolis has had a change of heart on the way he instructed the jury, and has ordered a new trial for the Brainerd woman who fought the industry.

The judge has now decided that the recording industry does have to prove that Jammie Thomas not only downloaded music from a file-sharing site, but that she also distributed the music, according to Wired Magazine.

The RIAA, which is the music industry’s lobbying and litigation arm, fought hard to keep Jury Instruction No. 15 in play. The group told the judge that copyright infringement on peer-to-peer networks is implied, and that it shouldn’t have to provide proof of an actual transfer — because it’s impossible.

“Requiring proof of actual transfers would cripple efforts to enforce copyright owners’ rights online – and would solely benefit those who seek to freeload off plaintiff’s investment,” RIAA attorney Timothy Reynolds said in a court filing (.pdf).

It’ll be a tough thing to prove. According to an MPR story during the trial, Thomas replaced her computer’s hard drive after the sharing was alleged to have taken place.

But if you think you’re clear to download and distribute if you just erase your hard drive every now and then, think again. Another federal judge, this one in Arizona, ordered a man to pay more than $40,000 for infringing copyrights on 54 songs.

U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake declared victory for the labels earlier this month after experts for the recording industry reported that Jeffrey Howell had erased his hard drive.

  • Also of interest is the recent conflict over Muxtape, a site that once let users upload and share their own digital mix tapes. Founder Justin Ouellette has a letter up on the site explaining his dealings with the labels and the RIAA.