Court reconsiders “making available” in file-sharing case

A U.S. District Court judge in Minnesota presiding over the case of Capitol Records Inc. v. Jammie Thomas has issued an Order breathing new life into the Defendant’s case.

Thomas was found liable for copyright infringement for activities over the KaZaA network, and had moved for either a new trial or lowering of damages on the ground that the amount of the jury award ($220,000 for 24 songs at $9,250 each) was excessive and a violation of due process. The Court’s Order however, stated that it was “contemplating granting a new trial for a different reason”, because Jury Instruction No. 15 which stated that that “[t]he act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer‐to‐peer network, without license from the copyright owners, violates the copyright owners’ exclusive right of distribution, regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown” was contrary to prevailing case law. Specifically, the Court noted that binding Eighth Circuit precedent from National Car Rental System, Inc. v. Computer Associates Int’l, Inc., required that “[i]nfringement of [the distribution right] requires an actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords…”

The order notes that this precedent appears to require “actual dissemination” but that neither party brought this to the Court’s attention. The Order goes on to state that “at least one authority relied upon by Plaintiffs…Atlantic Recording Corp. v. Howell [blogged here], has since been vacated, and, on reconsideration, that court has now held that making sound recordings available for distribution is not actionable under the Copyright Act and that ‘actual distribution’ is required.” The Court invited amicus briefs on the issue, and will hear arguments in the case on July 1, 2008.

Case is: Civil File No. 06‐1497 (MJD/RLE)

One thought on “Court reconsiders “making available” in file-sharing case

  1. Ray Beckerman

    Little does Judge Davis know that the decision which he says has "since" been vacated was actually vacated BEFORE the Capitol v. Thomas trial, and the RIAA lawyers "forgot" to tell him that. Boy will he be upset when he finds that out.

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