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Judge disputes key RIAA file-sharing argument


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Tempe (Arizona) – A federal judge has struck down a key RIAA file-sharing argument and as a result reversed an earlier judgment against an Arizona couple accused of illegally sharing music files. In the case of Atlantic v. Howell, US District Court Judge Wake said that the RIAA has not proven the couple actually distributed music files. The RIAA claimed that the couple made the files available to other peer to peer users, but Judge Wake argues that this, in itself, does not prove copyright infringement.

Wake seems fairly technically astute for a federal judge and wrote, “In the KaZaA system the owner of the shared folder does not necessarily ever make or distribute an unauthorized copy of the work.”

Back in 2006, the RIAA sued Pamela and Jeffrey Howell for copyright infringement. The RIAA claims that its watchdog organization MediaSentry discovered the Howells were sharing music files and downloaded several copies. The Howells tried defending themselves, but were hit with a $40,000 summary judgment last August. The EFF joined in the fray by dispatching attorney Fred von Lohmann to write up an amicus brief for the Howells.

One of the RIAA’s main arguments is that just installing a file sharing program and making music files available is enough to prove copyright infringement. This “Making Available” argument has been successfully used to extract thousands of dollars from defendants across the nation. But the Howells argued that they did not know their entire drive was shared by KaZaA and added that the RIAA can’t prove that people other than MediaSentry actually downloaded the files.

While Judge Wake says he is “sympathetic” to the plight of copyright holders, he did side with the Howells and denied the RIAA’s motion. You can read Judge Wake’s order here.

The RIAA is puzzled by this setback and told news website Arstechnica that this was a “strange” decision by Judge Wake. RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth added that the decision was “outside of the mainstream and inconsistent with countless court rulings on these issues.”

Neither the RIAA or the Howells have requested a jury trial, so the next stop for both sides will probably be a bench trial in front of the judge.

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Sounds fun :blink:

My first question is....WHY would they spend hundred of thousands of dollars to get a 40 thousand judgment from tow people.... instead of retooling the way they sell music in the first place. We are in the the electronic age the industry is in the stone age...well not that bad but just a few years difference in the business model they are forcing on the people who they want to sell music to

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