The one major element missing in virtually all the RIAA cases used to be the lack of examination of RIAA so-called expert witnesses, the notable exception being Ray Beckerman’s grilling of Dr Doug Jacobson, whose expert testimony he reduced to rubble. Jacobson had been using materials supplied by MediaSentry, the “private investigation firm” the RIAA was forced to fire, as p2pnet revealed. Then in late 2007 the Free Software Foundation launched its Expert Witness Defense Fund, aiming to at least partially level the playing field for the innocent men, women and even children across America who were under under attack by Warner Music, EMI, Vivendi Universal and Sony BMG’s RIAA. “Our concern was how the RIAA is trying to use this sledge-hammer against the poorest people in society to set precedents in copyright,” the FSF’s Peter Brown told p2pnet today. The launch of the fund, organized in coordination with Beckerman’s Recording Industry Vs The People, was vitally important and now it’s being used in the Jammie Thomas case, the most significant RIAA lawsuit to date. Of the 40,000 or so subpoenas issued, it’s the only case the RIAA has ever actually managed to to bring to to trial. The Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony BMG extortion unit thought it was home and dry when judge Michael Davis told jurors making songs available in a shared folder written to her computer hard drive by Kazaa in and of itself amounted to infringement, even if actual distribution hadn’t been proved. Jammie, the single mother of two children, was ordered to pay close to a quarter of a million dollars. However, judge Davis later admitted he'd made a mistake in law and the case is to be heard again on March 9. Now the FSF defense fund has granted Jammie and her lawyer, Brian Toder, $3,000, to be used to hire technical and expert witnesses to produce evidence for the new trail.
It'll be interesting to follow this case and see just how expert the RIAA witnesses are once they get under cross examination. The defences use of it's own expert testimony should reveal a few flaws in the RIAA's case and cause more than a little consternation in the RIAA corner.