But the RIAA’s woes did not end there. In fact, the much bigger news concerns the infamous Jammie Thomas case, in which the jury found Thomas liable for infringement merely for “making available” 24 songs – even though there was no proof of distribution – and awarded the music industry $222,000. Well, as it turns out, the act of making music available online may not be a copyright violation after all.
The judge is now saying that he may have committed a “manifest error of law” in his jury instructions by overlooking controlling Eighth Circuit authority, the case of National Car Rental v. Computer Associates, which held that there can’t be a violation of the ‘distribution right’ without an actual dissemination of copies. Apparently, the judge is now considering granting a new trial.
This is a major setback for the RIAA which has been holding up the Thomas case over and over again as proof that “making available” is infringement. If the judge does decide to order a retrial, more proof may be needed in future lawsuits to establish a violation of copyright law by users of peer-to-peer file sharing networks.