Jammie Thomas, the first “victim” of the RIAA’s legal jihad, is temporarily off the hook. Thomas, who was found guilty of copyright infringement and ordered to pay $222,000 in damages to the RIAA last October, was given a reprieve by Judge Michael J. Davis, who decided to overturn his previous ruling due to an “error” he made in giving instructions to the jury. As Ars Technica reports:
In a 43-page decision released late Thursday, Judge Davis wrote that the jury instruction in question was inaccurate. At issue was what he described as the “plain meaning” of distribution. “The Court’s examination of the use of the term ‘distribution’ in other provisions of the Copyright Act, as well as the evolution of liability for offers to sell in the analogous Patent Act, lead to the conclusion that the plain meaning of the term ‘distribution’ does not includ[e] making available and, instead, requires actual dissemination,” reads Judge Davis’ opinion.
The legal issues under consideration are far too complex to get into here. Suffice it to say that the RIAA’s main legal weapon – that simply having a file in a shared folder is copyright infringement, whether anyone actually downloads the file or not – has had a wrench thrown into it by Judge Davis.