Jury to decide fate of illegal file swapper

The case against Jammie Thomas, accused of illegally distributing 1702 music files using Kazaa, goes to the jury this Thursday.

The case against alleged illegal file swapper Jammie Thomas goes to the jury Thursday. Thomas is accused of illegally distributing 1702 music files using the service Kazaa by the Recording Industry Association of America. The trade association is suing Thomas in a Duluth, Minnesota federal court. Wednesday was the second day of testimony and prosecutors put Thomas on the stand.

Here are the highlights from Wednesday:

Thomas maintained that she never downloaded music from the Internet and that she owns CDs for all music tracks on her PC that she listens to. According to a report by the Duluth News Tribune she did however admit to using her PC to rip and burn copyrighted music for her friends, when asked by the plaintiff's attorney.

Much of the recording industry's case was focused on Thomas' hard drive at the time the alleged file sharing took place. Thomas, who uses the online moniker "Tereastarr" for e-mail and several other online accounts, could not explain why a folder investigators found on her PC for the Kazaa file sharing program was named "Tereeastarr's Kazaa" folder, according to Wired, which is covering the trial.

Additional questions were raised as to whether Thomas intentionally misled investigators when she said her hard drive had been replaced in 2004, when it was actually replaced in March of 2005. This is important because Thomas is being accused of illegally downloading and distributing digital audio files online on February 21, 2005.

Thomas acknowledges that she incorrectly stated the date the hard drive was replaced, according to an Associated Press report.

According to press reports, RIAA attorney Richard Gabriel also questioned Thomas on her views about file sharing. In a line of questions put to Thomas about her days as a college student, Thomas acknowledged writing a paper on the original Napster file-sharing program which she concluded, at the time, was not illegal.

Thomas's lawyer, Brian Toder, only briefly examined Thomas asking her to explain why so many songs were loaded onto her PC in a short period of time. Thomas explained and demonstrated using her old PC how easy and fast it was to rip music tracks to her PC. In a demonstration it took Thomas about 10 seconds to rip one track to her PC.

The time it took to rip a track was key piece of evidence for the attorney for the plaintiff. RIAA lawyers contended that digital music tracks believed to have been downloaded illegally from Kazaa were saved to Thomas' PC in time intervals of 15 seconds a piece. RIAA lawyers claimed that the only way music files could of been saved to her PC that quickly would have been via downloads from the Internet - not ripped from a PC.

According to news reports Gabriel dismissed the defense's courtroom demonstration of file ripping, stating that software used to demo how long it takes to rip a file was using more up-to-date software than what was available in 2005, when Thomas claims the files were copied from a CD.

Closing remarks were scheduled for Thursday morning.

RIAA is seeking damages in relation to 24 songs that it alleges were illegally downloaded and distributed over the Internet. Copyright law allows damages of US$750 to US$30,000 per infringement, or up to US$150,000.

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Tom Spring

PC World
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