John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

'Never Been on the Internet?' Oh My God, You've Got to Be Kidding.

It took five minutes for the jury in Virgin Records America et al. v. Thomas to find Jammie Thomas guilty of illegally downloading and sharing 24 songs over the Kazaa file-sharing network. But it took five hours for it to determine damages.

This according to juror Michael Hegg, who tells Wired that one of his impaneled colleagues for hours argued in favor of $750 minimum statutory damages for each of the songs at issue in the case. And Thomas was lucky he did. Because according to Hegg–who, remarkably, claims never to have been on the Internet–at least two other jurors were intent on slapping her with maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per song. Seems they didn’t quite buy Thomas’s defense and felt she needed to be taught a lesson. Had they prevailed, the judgment would have topped out at $3.6 million.

“We wanted to send a message that you don’t do this, that you have been warned,” Hegg told Wired, adding that the jury had a tough time believing someone else had spoofed Thomas’s account and used it to distribute copyrighted audio files. “Spoofing? We’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, you got to be kidding.’ She’s a liar. … I think she thought a jury from Duluth would be naive. We’re not that stupid up here. I don’t know what the f— she was thinking, to tell you the truth. … She should have settled out of court for a few thousand dollars.”

And perhaps she should have. As the Register notes, her defense was a bit strained at times:

  • Thomas used one hard drive for Kazaa … but sent a different one to the prosecution. Amazingly, they noticed. Doh!
  • Thomas’s attorney claimed that her account might have been hijacked by a Wi-Fi hacker hovering outside her window. The prosecution had little trouble disproving this: she wasn’t using Wi-Fi, and they matched her cable modem’s MAC address to the Kazaa traffic. Doh!
  • Thomas carefully covered her tracks–by using the same login name for Kazaa that she uses for all her email, online shopping and MySpace account. Doh!

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik