NEW YORK — A federal judge declared a mistrial in record label Tee Vee Toons Inc.’s copyright-infringement case against online music provider MP3.com Inc., citing a mathematical mistake made by jurors.
In April, the jury ordered MP3.com (MPPP) to pay Tee Vee $292,000 for copyright infringement, a relatively low amount considering Tee Vee, which represents such artists as Nine Inch Nails and Snoop Dogg, had sought $8.5 million in damages.
But within hours of the verdict, two members of the jury called the court to say that a zero had been left off and the award should have been $2 million to $3 million. In later testimony before U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff in Manhattan, the jury explained that one juror had apparently goofed as she converted the total damage award into 144 individual awards on her Palm Pilot handheld computer.
“The error is plain and must be rectified if justice in this case is to be anything more than a formalized illusion,” Judge Rakoff wrote in a six-page opinion issued Tuesday after a brief hearing.
He rejected arguments by MP3.com that would have allowed the original damage award to stand, and ordered a new trial to begin Nov. 6, two months after Vivendi Universal’s (V) acquisition of MP3.com is scheduled to close.
Lawyers for MP3.com and Tee Vee declined to comment on the judge’s decision.
The judge noted in his opinion that the jurors had expressed “great remorse over allowing the arithmetic error to occur after their hard work.”
The jury’s sole task during the trial was to determine damages, as Judge Rakoff had ruled in a summary judgment that MP3.com illegally copied Tee Vee’s works for its My.MP3.com service.
MP3.com, which allows CD owners to listen to their music from any computer, last year paid roughly $133 million to settle similar copyright disputes with the five major record labels.
The music company still faces a handful of copyright-infringement suits brought by Zomba Recording Corp., the recording label for Britney Spears, and others. Vivendi has acknowledged the outstanding copyright claims against MP3, saying it has taken the necessary measures to cover itself against any remaining legal risks.