Judge may grant new trial in music downloading case

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MPR Photo/Bill Alkofer

A federal jury in Duluth ruled last year in favor of several record companies, and against Jammie Thomas of Brainerd. Thomas was ordered to pay the companies $222,000 for putting copyrighted music up for public download on the file sharing network Kazaa.

But during a court hearing today, Judge Michael Davis said one of his instructions to the jury last fall may have been wrong, because he wasn't aware of a precedent in a prior case.

That prior case stated that simply placing music on a file-sharing site cannot be considered a potential violation of copyright laws. Davis had instructed the original jury that posting the files was a copyright violation.

Thomas' attorney, Brian Toder of Minneapolis, says there's no evidence the files were shared with anyone except the record companies themselves.

"The only evidence of any downloading in this whole case was downloading by people that worked for the plaintiffs," said Toder.

Donald Verrilli, an attorney for the record companies, says the judgment should stand.

"It is against the law to use Kazaa to download files, and it's against the law to use Kazaa to transfer files to others when you don't have permission of the copywright owner to do it. It's as simple as that," said Verrilli. "Everybody understands it. It's not really a question here about whether this is lawful or unlawful. It's unlawful."

Davis will decide by the end of September whether Jammie Thomas will get a new trial.