Friday, June 19, 2009


Ah, well, the news is in:

I'm not surprised by this verdict in the least, and I'm not sure that anyone following the repeated legal saga of Jammie Thomas is, either. I am a little disturbed, though.

I can't help but wonder if this woman wasn't just martyred. Of course, the RIAA will never see the two million dollars that the jury awarded them today - she said as much herself - but it's not like a lower-middle-class mother could ever pay a sum like that. What disturbs me is the behavior of her lawyer. Kiwi Camara, the lead of her legal team, spent the last couple of weeks essentially showboating around his legal defense and the exotic concepts he planned to employ in court; unfortunately, it didn't seem to do a damn bit of good. Sure, he cross-examined the prosecution's witnesses, and even had newly-introduced evidence (the discovery of a log file detailing the replacement of the hard drive the files were on) thrown out of court. Yet .. he didn't call a single witness.

By no means am I legal expert, but .. really? They couldn't come up with a single person to explain how it's possible for a woman to have her online identity spoofed? Sure, the evidence against her was pretty thorough - they had her mac address tied to the Kazaa account, had her pretty much locked up with the tereastarr username, and made clear that she replaced her hard drive AFTER she was subpoenaed - but it's almost like her team was only barely trying.

Which is all the more disturbing considering the verdict: the jury hit her up for 80 grand/song, hundreds of times more than she was originally ordered to pay per infringement. Her first guilty verdict, which was thrown out due to faulty jury directions (more specifically, the judge felt that, in the end, "making available" did not equal "stealing and distributing," so he forced a retrial), stoked a good deal of grass-roots anger. And perhaps rightfully so - there was no way the single mother could have ever paid off her original debt. So if the 30 grand or so of her original verdict pissed people off .. what will 2 MILLION dollars do?

Hopefully, I'm being a crazy paranoid fuck here, but it really looks like this verdict was almost orchestrated on the behalf of the defense. Camara was a student of the figure that currently crests the copyfight movement in the United States, the law professor Lawrence Lessig. He's pretty well known at this point for what essentially amounts to zealotry, and his students have been accused as much as well. Right now, he's trying to get suits like this thrown out of court, arguing that file sharing is fair use. We're several decades away from that ever being passed into law, but .. isn't it interesting that this verdict so thoroughly paints the RIAA even more as villains, and people like Jammie Thomas even more the attacked and molested citizen?

I guess what I'm trying to say is .. I'm not sure anymore. I believe in the copyleft and destroying the concept of intellectual-property more than almost anything, but I'm chilled to think at what cost such liberties might be obtained. The idea here is freedom, flexibility, creativity and innovation - not bloody winning. If we have to kill off the people that need this movement to succeed the most, then we're no better than any other shitty political group and have defeated the point entirely. Come on, guys: we don't need martyrs. We need heroes.

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