Record Labels Still Want to Know if Piracy Trial Jurors Read TorrentFreak

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The piracy liability trial between several major record labels and Internet provider Grande is about to begin. To rule out conflicts, both sides submitted an updated series of questions for the jury selection. The music companies still want to know who reads TorrentFreak and Ars Technica but are also more specific. There are new topics of interest including VPN use and church-going habits.

The “repeat infringer” issue remains a hot topic in US courts and several ISPs have been sued over the years.

These Internet providers stand accused of not doing enough to stop copyright infringers on their networks, even after receiving multiple ‘copyright infringement’ notifications.

The most prominent outcome thus far is the guilty verdict against Cox from late 2019. Following a jury trial, the company was ordered to pay a billion dollars in damages to a group of major record labels.

Record Labels vs. Grande

Following the verdict, several of the labels shifted their focus to the next targets, including ISP Grande Communications. This case was initially scheduled to start in early 2020 but, due to time constraints, was postponed for a few months.

Soon after this initial delay, the coronavirus pandemic hit causing the trial to be postponed even further until 2022. After a wait of nearly two years, it is now expected to start in a few weeks and the final preparations are in full swing.

This week both parties submitted their ‘voir dire’ questions for potential trial jurors. The jury consists of members of the public, but the legal teams from both sides are allowed to ask questions during the selection process, to ensure that jurors are unbiased.

Jury Selection Questions

Most of these questions make sense. Grande doesn’t want any former employees of the music companies or disgruntled subscribers in the jury. Similarly, the music companies prefer to keep people who have been sued by the RIAA off the bench.

However, the questions also touch on broader subjects. Two years ago we reported that the music companies were also interested in whether people read TorrentFreak and that hasn’t changed. Among the 52 voir dire questions there is also one about TorrentFreak and Ars Technica.

“Have you ever read or visited Ars Technica or TorrentFreak?” it reads.

This question is similar to the one that was submitted two years ago. However, the potential jurors will now have to explain what type of material they read on the two news sites.

The document doesn’t explain what the exact goal of this question is. TorrentFreak has a broad readership base with varying interests. These include rightsholders, legal experts, digital activists, and members of the public who like to follow piracy-related news.

EFF Supporter? VPN User?

TorrentFreak and Ars Technica are not the only outfits the labels are interested in. They also want to know if potential jury members have been contributing to or supporting the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), or if they’re familiar with the piracy tracking from Rightscorp.


Interestingly, these questions could theoretically steer potential jurors in a certain direction. Even those who have never heard of TorrentFreak may be intrigued by the question and start reading it going forward. But that’s probably not the goal here.

Reading through the questions we also see some other ones that stand out. For example, the music companies want to know if potential jurors have ever visited The Pirate Bay or used a VPN for anything other than work. This VPN question is new.

More New Questions

Other new questions cover seemingly unrelated topics about how people spend their free time and whether they regularly go to church.

“How do you like to spend your free time, if you have any?” one question reads, while another one asks if potential jurors “are regularly involved with [their] church or any other house of worship.”

The music companies are not the only ones asking questions of course. Grande Communications has also prepared a list, hoping to signal bias or other disqualifying factors.

The ISP asks, for example, if the candidates are musicians or have ever worked at a record label. The company also asks whether they believe it’s an ISP’s responsibility to monitor and police online piracy.

“Does anyone here believe that it is the ISP’s responsibility to monitor and police online copyright infringement?” Grande asks.

The jury selection for the upcoming trial is scheduled to take place on January 21st and the trial will start a few days later. In the coming weeks, both parties will work on their final preparations.

A copy of the record labels’ proposed voir dire questions for potential jurors is available here (pdf) and Grande’s version can be found here (pdf)


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