The Computer & Communications Industry Association joined with several organizations today in urging a federal court to grant a new trial to Jammie Thomas, who was fined $222,000 in October 2007 for allegedly violating copyrights.
Thomas was found liable for unlawfully distributing music on a file sharing network, notwithstanding the lack of evidence that she had in fact done so. Her liability was based upon a startling jury instruction that the plaintiff record labels need not have proved that she actually distributed any music on the Internet to hold her liable for distributing music on the Internet.
“If this outcome were allowed to stand, it would set a dangerous precedent for copyright law,” said Ed Black, President & CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. “Before you hold someone responsible for an offense, in this case distributing protected songs, it’s probably a good idea to prove they actually committed the offense.”
CCIA, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and the U.S. Internet Industry Association, did not take a position on the merits Thomas’s alleged liabilities and defenses. Instead, the brief argues that this jury instruction, which adopted the Plaintiffs’ so-called “making available” theory of infringement, had no basis in the Copyright Act and threatened innovative, legal e-commerce and Internet businesses.
Given the “extraordinary penalties that can follow from a finding of infringement” and the fact that “there is no need to allege or prove actual damage”, the brief argues that the jury instruction incorrectly expanded the scope of the distribution right, in a dangerous manner.