Copyright On Trial: The Jammie Thomas-Rasset and Joel Tenenbaum Peer-to-Peer File Sharing Cases

Zach McGee
May 17, 2013


Jury trials in copyright cases are rare enough. Jury trials in copyright cases that capture the world’s attention are rarer still. But in recent years we witnessed two such trials: the major record labels’ cases against Minnesota mother Jammie-Thomas Rasset and Boston University physics graduate student Joel Tenenbaum, both of whom were accused of using peer-to-peer software to download and “share” songs without permission from the copyright owners. The antics of defense counsel and the enormous verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs — $1.92 million against Thomas-Rasset and $675,000 against Tenenbaum — riveted IP lawyers, as well as millions of ordinary citizens who care about the future of the music industry. Federal courts recently affirmed both verdicts, although the damages award against Thomas-Rasset was reduced to $222,000, and the Tenenbaum case is still on appeal.

Zach McGee, an entertainment lawyer who has been following both cases since 2009, will bring you inside the Minneapolis and Boston courtrooms where history was made with these highly-usual trials. He also will discuss the numerous novel copyright issues raised by these cases, as well as the larger question of whether the record labels’ litigation campaign against thousands of individual downloaders can be considered a success.

Topics will include:

The so-called “making available” right.
Is peer-to-peer use fair use?
The potential conflicts that arise when a law professor devoted to a cause represents an individual client.
The possible constitutional limits on large awards of copyright statutory damages.
Is there a better way to combat online infringement than suits against individuals?
This program will benefit anyone who cares about copyright, both litigators and transactional attorneys, as well as anyone who cares about the future of the music business, and enjoys a good trial war story.


Zach McGee, Senior Vice President, Business Affairs, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Los Angeles, CA

Zach leads worldwide business affairs for Sony’s home entertainment division. Before moving to Sony, he was the Senior Vice President, Head of Business & Legal Affairs at Miramax, a leading independent film and television studio. Before joining Miramax, Zach was a Vice President, Legal Affairs, with NBC Universal, Inc. Prior to moving in-house, he was an associate with Davis Polk. Zach clerked for the Honorable Michael B. Mukasey, Chief Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and he received his Masters of Business Administration from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Zach also has taught negotiation ethics for lawyers as an Adjunct Professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University.

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