Profs tell Thomas judge making available isn’t distribution

It can’t be easy for a federal judge to admit that he was wrong when giving jury instructions in a high-profile case, but the judge in the Jammie Thomas file-swapping case has stepped up and cast serious doubt on his own actions. Following other court rulings around the country, Judge Michael Davis indicated that he may grant Thomas a new trial after telling the jury that simply "making available" a copyrighted song on P2P networks counted as infringement. Now, Davis has asked for public comment on "whether the Court committed a manifest error of law in instructing the jury." The first public response to that question offers a resounding "yes" in response.

Nine copyright professors have filed a "friend of the court" brief (found via Threat Level) that addresses Davis’ question. While the "making available" issue can be tedious, technical, and contradictory (different court rulings have gone different ways), the brief actually does a fine job of making the debate accessible.

The main thrust of the argument is a simple one: a close look at the actual words of the relevant copyright statute show that rights holders have the exclusive prerogative to "distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public." The key question concerns whether just making available a file in a shared directory counts as a distribution to the public, and the professors argue that it clearly does not.

Read the full story on ars technica.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.