Round two begins in file-sharing case
MINNEAPOLIS -- A representative of Sony Entertainment told a jury Monday that the online pirating of songs has cost the music industry billions of dollars and thousands of jobs and has made it more difficult to nurture new artists.
But defense attorneys representing Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who is accused of illegally downloading and distributing music on a peer-to-peer file sharing network, said there is no evidence their client did anything illegal.
Seven women and five men, including two college students, were selected Monday to hear the case before Judge Michael Davis in U.S. District Court.
Thomas-Rasset, 32, of Brainerd, was sued in 2006 by six major record companies for copyright infringement for allegedly distributing 24 of their music tracks using the KaZaA file-sharing network. In the nation's first copyright infringement case to reach a jury in October 2007, jurors in Duluth found that Thomas-Rasset committed copyright infringement by distributing the songs and determined the penalty should be $9,250 for each of the 24 music tracks she made available. Her total liability was found to be $222,000.
But U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ruled in September that he erred in his instructions to the jury and granted a new trial.
That trial got under way Monday.
Wade Leak, deputy general counsel for Sony Entertainment, testified that he's seen "thousands of people let go" because of the impact of online piracy. He said it has "decimated" his industry and hurt its ability to nurture new artists.
"It's no different than going into a record store and taking the album," Leak told jurors.
A computer expert who works for a company that gathers evidence of copyright infringement provided evidence that linked Thomas-Rasset's computer user name, "tereastarr," and her IP address to the music tracks she's accused of making available for free distribution to millions of other KaZaA users.
Thomas-Rasset's attorney Kiwi Camara, an up-and-coming lawyer from Houston who graduated from Harvard Law School at 19, told jurors in his opening statement that the plaintiffs' evidence gets them as far as Thomas-Rasset's Internet connection, but there is no evidence she was the person on the keyboard and mouse doing the downloading.
Camara, who is being assisted by law school classmate and legal partner Joe Sibley, characterized his client as a music lover who is one of the recording industries' best customers. He said she has purchased more than 200 CDs and has purchased each of the
24 songs she is accused of illegally distributing.
"Ms. Thomas buys music, she doesn't steal it," Camara told jurors. "Basically, they are accusing her of running a music-stealing ring from the computer in the bedroom of her house. Ms. Thomas didn't do it."
Timothy Reynolds, a Denver attorney representing the recording companies, told jurors that Thomas-Rasset intentionally concealed her infringement and tried to escape responsibility for her actions by giving the plaintiffs a clean hard drive for them to inspect.
Camara told jurors that his client had her hard drive replaced after her son hit the computer while playing a game.
Earlier, during jury interviews, Reynolds questioned a propective juror who is a Bemidji State University student.
The student admitted that he had once downloaded music for free through a fire-sharing network, but said he didn't do it anymore.
Reynolds asked the student if he had any feelings about that. "Well, it's against the law," the student said and smiled. The lawyer then asked the student what he was studying at Bemidji State. "Criminal justice," the sophomore said as some of those in the court room chuckled. He was selected for the jury. The other college student is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls who is studying animal science. Davis told the attorneys that the names and addresses of jurors were not to be made public.