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Judge grants extension in music download case

The federal judge who presided over the nation's first music download trial has granted the request of attorneys for more time to file legal briefs to state their positions in the case.

In October, a Duluth jury determined that Jammie Thomas of Brainerd was liable for $222,000 damages for willfully committing copyright infringement by distributing 24 songs on the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing network.

However, Judge Michael J. Davis issued an order last week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis informing the parties in the case that he's contemplating granting a new trial on the grounds that he may have given the jury instructions "contrary to binding 8th Circuit precedent."

The issue is whether record companies have to prove anyone else downloaded their copyrighted songs or whether it's enough to show that a defendant made copyrighted music available for copying.

Davis told jurors at the trial that the act of making copyrighted sound recordings available for electronic distribution on a peer-to-peer network violated the owners' copyright regardless of whether actual distribution was shown.

In Thursday's order, Davis wrote that he found a 1993 ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Minnesota, that infringement requires "an actual dissemination of either copies or phonorecords."

Davis had given the parties until May 29 to file briefs supporting their positions, but Tuesday Davis issued an order granting the parties' request for more time. The court said the briefs are now due June 23.

Oral arguments were to be heard on July 1 in Duluth. They will now be heard here on Aug. 4.

Among the reasons the parties stated for asking for the delay is that Richard Gabriel, the Denver lawyer who led the case for the record companies, has been appointed to serve as a judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals and will be transferring his responsibilities to other lawyers in his law firm.

Minneapolis attorney Brian Toder, who represents Thomas, has another federal jury trial set to begin on June 2.