Piracy verdict still reverberating

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Piracy verdict still reverberating

Wed Jun 24, 2009 @ 12:02PM PST

By Eriq Gardner


6a00d83451d69069e20115703a44d0970c-pi Last week's verdict in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case continues to generate reaction.

The guilty defendant and her lawyer appeared on CBS' "The Early Show" to tell her story and arouse some sympathy.

Meanwhile, the RIAA is slowly becoming less shy about touting the verdict. On its "Music Notes" blog, vp Joshua Friedlander offers an interesting interpretation of the verdict, saying we can learn the views of a majority of Americans from this 12-person, industry-outsider jury. He writes: "Despite the protestations of some pundits who suggest that the digital world should resemble some kind of new wild west, the majority understands and believes that the same laws and rules we follow every day apply online."

The case has received so much attention that it might actually be overshadowing a court decision in Germany that's arguably more consequential.

Thomas-Rasset was accused of sharing copyrighted songs on the Kazaa network. But these days, most pirates have largely eschewed massive peer-to-peer file-sharing services like Kazaa in favor of private torrent networks or nimble hosting services like Rapidshare and Megaupload connecting users to desired copyrighted material on a much more ad hoc basis. 

In all the talk about the Thomas-Rasset verdict, and what the jury's expression actually meant, few have devoted attention to the fact that Jammie was caught using a P2P client that's seen as being largely obsolete in many quarters.

Which brings us to yesterday's decision in Germany, where a regional court in Hamburg ruled that Rapidshare is "now responsible for making sure that none of the music tracks concerned are distributed via its platform in the future. This means that the copyright holder is no longer required to perform the ongoing and complex checks."

In recent years, Rapidshare has emerged as a giant in the file hosting world, and while there will no doubt be services that take its place, at least this verdict targets a technology that's in vogue in the piracy community. In the meantime, Rapidshare COO Bobby Chang downplays the ruling as not being a "breakthrough" because he thinks "the courts of appeal tend to restrict the scope of the decisions made by the lower courts."

We'll see.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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