Judge Michael Davis of Duluth, Minn. ruled that he wrongly instructed the jury that it could find Thomas liable for merely making tracks available for distribution on Kazaa. Davis ordered a new trial in the case. At the retrial, the record industry will have to prove that someone infringed on the labels' copyright by downloading the tracks that Thomas made available. It's not clear whether downloads by the record labels' investigator will be sufficient to prove infringement, because such downloads were presumably authorized by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Davis also wrote that the damages were inordinately high and called on Congress to change the law, which currently provides for a minimum award of $750 per infringement.
"While the Court does not discount Plaintiffs' claim that, cumulatively, illegal downloading has far-reaching effects on their businesses, the damages awarded in this case are wholly disproportionate to the damages suffered by Plaintiffs. Thomas allegedly infringed on the copyrights of 24 songs--the equivalent of approximately three CDs, costing less than $54, and yet the total damages awarded is $222,000--more than five hundred times the cost of buying 24 separate CDs and more than four thousand times the cost of three CDs," Davis wrote.
The RIAA has threatened around 30,000 individuals with lawsuits for file-sharing on peer-to-peer networks. Thomas, a single mother, was the first defendant to go to trial.--Wendy Davis