TORCHBEARING peasants are making their way toward Castle RIAA following a Federal Court ruling that, "Merely making an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work available to the public does not violate a copyright holder's exclusive right of distribution."
According to one copyright lawyer, the decision means the end of the MAFIAA's litigation strategy.
In Atlantic Records v. Howell, Judge Neil V. Wake rejected the RIAA's claim that the defendants had distributed music files merely by making them available through Kazaa.
A private investigator hired by the RIAA identifed 4,000 files available from the Howells' Kazaa account, took screenshots showing the files listed and downloaded some of the songs.
The Howells maintained that they made legitimate copies of their CDs for personal use and they didn't know Kazaa was making them public. Asked if he was sharing music files online, Jeffrey Howell told the court, "I was not, no. The computer was, but I was not. The computer in some form ... made files that I did not know available on the Internet."
The ruling means the onus is now on the RIAA to prove exactly who was making copyrighted files available, rather than simply prosecuting the owner of the computer.
A lawyer investigating appeals for people already ordered to pay damages of up to $150,000 a song says that, following the new ruling, he believes the convictions were reached following improper instructions to juries. He added that damages of $750 per song would be ruled unconstitutional, as the actual lost profit when a song is copied is more like 40 cents. µ
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