Court Rejects RIAA Claim In Lawsuit
April 30, 2008

A U.S. District Court Judge has reversed his own ruling in a legal battle between the RIAA and a couple it had sued for copyright infringement in 2006. The RIAA sued Pamela and Jeffery Howell over their use of the Kazaa file sharing software, which allowed copyrighted songs to be made available for sharing online. According to CNet, Jeffery Howell said he had ripped songs from his own CDs, but not placed the tracks in the shared folder, nor had he downloaded them using Kazaa. Howell also argued that the computer was technically sharing the songs, not him.

The RIAA had requested a motion of summary judgment, which was denied by Judge Neil V. Wake this week. Judge Wake wrote in a court order that he essentially agreed with the Howells' position. "The court agrees with the great weight of authority that section 106(3) is not violated unless the defendant has actually distributed an unauthorized copy of the work to a member of the public. Merely making an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work available to the public does not violate a copyright holder's exclusive right of distribution." The Judge essentially is asking the RIAA to prove the songs that were shared were actually downloaded and that the Howells deliberately shared the files.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorney Fred von Lohmann described the order as the "most decisive rejection yet of the recording industry's 'making available' theory of infringement," according to CNet.

The order actually reverses Wake's ruling from August of last year, where he had granted the RIAA summery judgment and fined the Howells over $40,000. The couple appealed the ruling, and with this week's decision, the case will go to trial.

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Mark Adams
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