A judge ruled Monday that defendant Jeffery Howell had willfully and intentionally destroyed evidence of his P2P activities in bad faith after being informed of pending legal action by the RIAA. It was deemed that his actions "warrants appropriate sanctions" in a case that has become one of the most closely-watched copyright infringement lawsuits yet.
The defendant, who represented himself throughout the case (always a solid move), was accused of copyright infringement for sharing music over P2P network KaZaA. Howell denied the charges, claiming that the music in his shared folder was for his own private use, not for sale or distribution.
Howell actually won a victory against the RIAA this past April, when a judge rejected the RIAA's legal theory that simply making a file available on P2P network constituted copyright infringement. Judge Neil V. Wake denied the RIAA's motion for summary judgment, ruling that "a distribution must involve a 'sale or other transfer of ownership' or a 'rental, lease, or lending' of a copy of the work. The recording companies have not proved an actual distribution of 42 of the copyrighted sound recordings at issue, so their motion for summary judgement fails as to those recordings."
However, by the end of July, the record labels filed a motion seeking judgment in their favor due to what they characterized as Howell's attempts to cover his tracks. It seems Howell destroyed evidence on four separate occasions after first receiving the prelitigation settlement letter and later being served with the lawsuit. The RIAA's forensics experts found that Howell uninstalled KaZaA and deleted everything in the shared folder, reformatted his hard drive, downloaded and used a file-wiping program, and then nuked all the KaZaA logs on his PC. Ooops.
The Judge sided with the RIAA, and will inform Howell of his sentence and the damages he'll have to pay in an upcoming written order coming to a web news blog near you. Stay tuned!