His jury instructions this time framed the issues somewhat differently. He didn't explicitly define distribution but said the acts of downloading copyrighted sound recordings or distributing them to other users on peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa, without a license from the owners, are copyright violations.
This case was the only one of more than 30,000 similar lawsuits to make it all the way to trial. The vast majority of people targeted by the music industry had settled for about $3,500 each. The recording industry has said it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead now working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders.
In testimony this week, Thomas-Rasset denied she shared any songs. On Wednesday, the self-described "huge music fan" raised the possibility for the first time in the long-running case that her children or ex-husband might have done it. The defense did not provide any evidence, though, that any of them had shared the files.
The recording companies accused Thomas-Rasset of offering 1,700 songs on Kazaa as of February 2005, before the company became a legal music subscription service following a settlement with entertainment companies. For simplicity's sake the music industry tried to prove only 24 infringements.
Reynolds argued Thursday that the evidence clearly pointed to Thomas-Rasset as the person who made the songs available on Kazaa under the screen name "tereastarr." It's the same nickname she acknowledged having used for years for her e-mail and several other computer accounts, including her MySpace page.
Reynolds said the copyright security company MediaSentry traced the files offered by "tereastarr" on Kazaa to Thomas-Rasset's Internet Protocol address — the online equivalent of a street address — and to her modem.
He said MediaSentry downloaded a sample of them from the shared directory on her computer. That's an important point, given Davis' new instructions to jurors.
Although the plaintiffs weren't able to prove that anyone but MediaSentry downloaded songs off her computer because Kazaa kept no such records, Reynolds told the jury it's only logical that many users had downloaded songs offered through her computer because that's what Kazaa was there for.
Sibley argued it would have made no sense for Thomas-Rasset to use the name "tereastarr" to do anything illegal, given that she had used it widely for several years.
He also portrayed the defendant as one of the few people brave enough to stand up to the recording industry, and he warned jurors that they could also find themselves accused on the basis of weak evidence if their computers are ever linked to illegal file-sharing.
"They are going to come at you like they came at 'tereastarr,"' he said.
Steve Marks, executive vice president and general counsel of the Recording Industry Association of America, estimated earlier this week that only a few hundred of the lawsuits remain unresolved and that fewer than 10 defendants were actively fighting them.
The companies that sued Thomas-Rasset are subsidiaries of all four major recording companies, Warner Music Group Corp. TWX, Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, EMI Group PLC and Sony Corp.'s SNE Sony Music Entertainment.
The recording industry has blamed online piracy for declines in music sales, although other factors include the rise of legal music sales online, which emphasize buying individual tracks rather than full albums.