Accused downloader demonstrates ripping CDs for juryby Joshua Freed, Associated Press
Duluth, Minn. — (AP) - The most dramatic moment so far in the trial of a Minnesota woman accused of music piracy was when she set up her computer and copied a couple of CDs in front of the jury on Wednesday.
Some of the nation's largest record companies sued Jammie Thomas, accusing her of illegally sharing 1,702 songs. Thomas has denied any wrongdoing. The civil trial in federal court is expected to wrap up Thursday.
Thomas was aiming to poke holes in testimony by Doug Jacobson, an expert for the record companies. He had testified that songs on one of Thomas' computer drives appeared to have been copied there nearly all at once - suggesting piracy.
Many of the songs appeared just 15 seconds apart - and Jacobson said that was too fast for her to have copied her own CDs.
In an effort to prove him wrong, Thomas set up her computer and, over the objection of record company attorney, "ripped" two CDs. Each song took less than 10 seconds. Thomas timed each CD with a stopwatch on her cell phone.
Jacobson said the comparison might not be valid because Thomas used a newer version of Windows Media Player to rip the CDs than was available at the time the files were put on her hard drive.
The record companies claim that in February 2005 they found 1,702 songs on a Kazaa file-sharing account they later linked to Thomas.
Thomas replaced her hard drive in March 2005. She said Best Buy recommended replacing it to fix problems her computer was having. The record companies have said she did it to cover her tracks.
Richard Gabriel, the attorney for the record companies, called Kevin Havemeier, Thomas' boyfriend at the time. He testified that she had talked about problems with her hard drive before the lawsuit came up. He also said he had never seen her download music.
A worker from Best Buy Co.'s Geek Squad service testified that Thomas' hard drive was replaced under an extended warranty plan in 2005 which would generally have required her approval.
But under cross-examination by Thomas attorney Brian Toder, he said he didn't have any specific record showing she approved the replacement.
Thomas, a 30-year-old mother of two from Brainerd, is expected to testify during the trial.
"I do know that I didn't do this, and the jury will hear that I did not do this," she said Tuesday outside the courtroom.
Toder has used his cross-examinations to raise doubts about whether the record companies can really prove it was Thomas who downloaded and shared the 1,702 songs.
The companies have backed up their claims with printouts of logs and dates and Internet addresses that were projected on a screen in front of jurors, with Gabriel using a laser pointer to highlight the entries he says prove Thomas did what they say she did.
The record companies involved in the lawsuit include Sony BMG, Arista Records LLC, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings Inc., Capitol Records Inc. and Warner Bros. Records Inc.
Music sales have slumped in recent years as more people have turned to file-sharing. The Recording Industry Association of America, which is not a party to the lawsuit, says record companies have brought more than 26,000 actions against people alleging they shared files in violation of copyrights.
The action against Thomas is the first to get to trial because most defendants have settled by paying a few thousand dollars.
Thomas, who works for the Department of Natural Resources of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, is at risk for a judgment of more than $1.2 million if jurors found against her for all 1,702 songs. The recording association is seeking damages set under federal law of $750 to $30,000 for each copyright violation.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
- All Things Considered, 10/03/2007, 5:23 p.m.