Duluth jury hears 4 witnesses in illegal downloading lawsuit

A music industry employee testified this afternoon that she has seen thousands of people lose their jobs because of Internet piracy of copyrighted songs.

A music industry employee testified this afternoon that she has seen thousands of people lose their jobs because of Internet piracy of copyrighted songs.

"It kills the company," Jennifer L. Pariser of Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Arista Records said in U.S. Federal Court in Duluth.

Pariser was the first witness in the Recording Industry Association of America lawsuit against Jammie Thomas of Brainerd. RIAA claims that Thomas pirated a number of songs. RIAA is suing Thomas specifically over 25 songs. Nationally, this is the first time such a case has come before a jury. It is being heard by U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis.

"I never downloaded anything," Thomas told reporters outside of the courthouse during lunch. Thomas. "I have CDs of everything I listen to."

During her early testimony, Pariser testified about the songs that a company working for the recording industry found being shared over the Internet by the username " tereastarr@KaZaA " on Feb. 21, 2005. The plaintiffs claim their investigation found that Thomas as the subscriber responsible for the pirating.


During cross-examination, Thomas' attorney, Brian Toder, questioned if there was any evidence actually proving that Thomas had shared the songs in question. Pariser conceded that it would be "hypothetically possible" for someone else to do so.

Toder also questioned why the music industry isn't seeking actual damages, but instead monetary awards allowed by copyright law ranging from $750 to $150,000 a song. The 12-person jury will determine the actual amount Thomas will pay if the jury decides she did pirate the songs.

The reason, Toder implied, was because the plantiffs can't identify anyone else who may have shared the files.

The plaintiffs' second and third witnesses, Mark Weaver of Safenet, Inc., and David Edgar, an Internet security manager for Charter Communications, testified on the steps they used to track the Feb. 21, 2005, file sharing to the IP address they contend was registered to Thomas.

While cross examining the first three witnesses, Toder raised the question of whether someone else could have shared the files using the internet provider address registered to Thomas, perhaps through a wireless connection.

The plaintiffs' fourth witness however said that Thomas' computer was on the public Internet at the time and that "no wireless router was used in this case."

Doug Jacobson, testifying as an expert witness, explained his investigation of Thomas' Internet account and his examination of an exact copy of her computer's hard drive.

In his opinion, Thomas' account and computer were used distribute and download songs. The examination of the hard drive found a large number of audio files and several instances of the username "tereastarr." But there was no evidence of KaZaA or any other peer-to-peer network, Jacobson said.


Judge Davis ended today's court session around 5:20 p.m., before the plaintiffs lead attorney, Richard Gabriel, finished his examination of Johnson. The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The trial is being watched closely by many interested in the issue of downloading and sharing of Internet files. About 24 spectators were in the courtroom as jury selection began at 9:30 a.m. Some were representatives of local, Twin Cities and national media, including the Associated Press and Wired magazine. A courtroom artist sat in the front bench, drawing pictures of attorneys, witnesses, the judge and defendant. Others spectators were members of the plaintiff's legal team.

Others were there, however, simply because they were interested in the issue.

"A lot is at stake at this trial," said Josh Richard of Duluth. "It comes down to what people see as their definition of freedom. Each side has sound arguments. We'll see how it plays out."

Megan Carney came from the Twin Cities to watch the trial. The information technology worker said the techniques that RIAA uses to identify people it claims are downloading and sharing copyrighted material are not well known.

"I'm interested in seeing how that stands up in court as evidence," she said.

"I think RIAA's techniques are underhanded and want to see if 12 other people agree," said Robert Fensterman, a self-described computer geek from Duluth.

The RIAA claims the music industry is losing billions of dollars from the illegal copying of its music. The industry's zero-tolerance copyright campaign started in 2003, threatening people who it alleges has downloaded copyrighted music with lawsuits unless they settle out of court.


It took just over an hour to seat a six-man, six-woman jury from a pool of 39 prospective jurors. The jury includes a high school English teacher from Kanabec County who has a master's degree and is a musician. He wore his hair over his ears and a black T-shirt with white lettering that read: "Got Democracy?"

The man said he has read a lot about the issue of music pirating in Rolling Stone magazine. He said his students also like to write about the issue. "It's a good, controversial topic for students to write about," he said while being questioned as a prospective juror by U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis.

The jury was seated at 10:45 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Duluth. The teacher seated as a juror said most of his students probably sided with those who download music. "I know it's a very debatable topic with lots of issues," the juror said. He said his view goes back and forth, but he could keep an open mind and follow the law that the judge said they must follow.

The jury also includes a silver-mustached man who doesn't have a computer and doesn't have much use for technology.

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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