Judge bars RIAA president from testifying in Capitol Records v. Thomas
Duluth, Minnesota — Testimony in Capitol Records v. Jammie Thomas wrapped up today after Judge Michael J. Davis decided against allowing RIAA president Cary Sherman to testify in the case. Sherman was to have been called this afternoon after representatives from the record labels involved in the case finished testifying as to their ownership of the copyrights.
After a brief recess this afternoon, plaintiffs' counsel Richard Gabriel and defendant's counsel Brian Toder made their cases before the judge as to the relevance of Sherman's testimony. Toder argued that Sherman's testimony was not relevant to the question at hand, the fact of whether Thomas was liable for copyright infringement. Gabriel said that Sherman would be able to tell the jury why this case was significant and, more importantly, describe the harm the RIAA believes piracy has caused to the music industry.
"I don't want to turn this case into a soap box for the recording industry," Toder argued in response.
After Judge Davis initially struck Sherman from the witness list, Gabriel continued pressing his case, saying that Sherman would be able to draw the jury's attention to "the massive problem of file sharing" and testify that the RIAA is "not out to get millions in damages, but to prove a point." With the judge refusing to reconsider his motion barring Sherman testifying, the case wrapped up with witnesses from UMG, Warner Bros., and EMI Records North America, all of whom testified that the record labels did indeed own the copyrights to the recordings in question.
Thomas takes the stand.
The Federal Courthouse in Duluth
This afternoon also marked the appearance of Jammie Thomas on the stand. She was called by the plaintiffs immediately after lunch, who started by questioning her about her experience with computers. After establishing that she has accounts with Match.com, MySpace, plays games online, and has an Internet account at home, Gabriel then asked her if she posted to the "anti-RIAA blog" Recording Industry vs. The People under the username "tereastarr." After answering in the affirmative, questioning then turned to whether there was another PC in her home the night Media Sentry discovered the tereastarr@KaZaA account. She said that there was not.
On a number of occasions during her testimony, Gabriel asked Thomas to refer to her depositions, reminding her that she was under oath when she gave the depositions and was under oath on the stand. Gabriel then proceeded to show the jury the ubiquity of the tereastarr username in Thomas' online persona. The jurors saw screenshots of her pogo.com and match.com profiles and the Start menu from her Compaq Presario PC, all of which had the tereastarr username.
Gabriel also questioned her on whether any of her ex-boyfriends had used the computer and as to when she started password-protecting the admin account on her Windows XP machine. He established that after breaking up with a boyfriend in 2004, she began using a password for her admin account and that she was the only one who knew what it was.
The questioning then turned to her CD-ripping habits. In her deposition, Thomas said that she ripped no more than six or seven CDs per day, but on the stand today, she said she could have ripped over 2,000 songs in a little over two days. When shown the screenshots taken by Media Sentry of the KaZaA share, she said that she "understands that the labels say this is a screenshot of the PC they found on KaZaA," but denied ever downloading or using KaZaA.
Gabriel then turned to her eclectic music collection, comparing some of the bands seen in the KaZaA share to found in her My Music folder upon forensic examination of her hard drive. He rattled off bands such as Lacuna Coil, Cold, Evanescence, Howard Shore, Green Day, Black Sabbath, Creed, Belinda Carlisle, A.F.I., Dream Theater, Sheryl Crow, and Enya, concluding by asking, "Does it surprise you to learn there are more than 60 artists you listen to in the shared folder?"
"No," replied Thomas.
Gabriel then asked her about her days as an undergrad at St. Cloud State University and some research she had done on Napster. In 1998 or 1999, she did a research project, creating an account on Napster and downloading some music to a college computer. Thomas agreed with Gabriel's assertion that she concluded at the time that using Napster was legal.
In another indication of the degree to which the recording industry is leery of copying music, Gabriel then asked her about burning CDs. Thomas said she had burned two or three compilation CDs for boyfriends, including one called "From me to you" given as a Valentine's Day present to her ex-boyfriend Kevin Habemeier. She also disputed Habemeier's testimony about the circumstances surrounding the notice she received from ISP about the notification of copyright infringement.
Under cross-examination by her attorney, Thomas explained the date discrepancies. She originally had said that she bought the PC from Best Buy in 2003 and that the hard drive was replaced in January or February of 2004. After her forensic expert inspected the hard drive and found that it wasn't manufactured until January 2005, she then said that she bought the PC in 2004 and that the hard drive was replaced in March 2005. "I was a year off on everything in my deposition," she said. He also said that the "jury could do the math" on whether it was possible for her to rip 2,000 or so tracks over a two-day period given the demonstration earlier in the day.
Toder then concluded by asking her if she ever had KaZaA on her computer and if she had ever downloaded the KaZaA application. She replied in the negative to both queries.
With the record company representatives done testifying and Sherman barred from appearing in court, both sides rested their cases and began work on the jury instructions. Closing arguments will begin tomorrow morning, with each side given a half hour to summarize their cases. The jury will then begin deliberations, and we may have a verdict to report tomorrow.