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Bad math leads to mistrial in MP3.com case

Bad math leads to mistrial in MP3.com case

A US District Court judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in a copyright infringement battle between MP3.com and TeeVee Toons, pointing to a mathematical error made by jurors determining damages in the case.

Confusion arose over how much online music seller MP3.com would have to pay TVT when the jury made a mistake as it rendered its verdict in April, awarding TVT just under $US300,000 when in fact the jury had decided close to $3 million was an appropriate amount.

"The American jury system may yield countless benefits, but in this case it produced an uncounted, and unaccountable, result," wrote Judge Jed S. Rakoff, in an opinion issued late Tuesday. "The Court reaches this conclusion with some regret, since, arithmetic errors aside, the jury was attentive and conscientious and the case was well tried; indeed nearly all the jurors expressed great remorse over allowing the arithmetic error to occur after their hard work."

One juror apparently made an error while calculating the damages on her Palm Pilot handheld computer. Other jurors did not notice the mistake until they saw media reports on the case later in the day.

"While the precise mistakes made in the operation of the Palm Pilot are uncertain, it is clear that the errors were essentially mechanical in the process of breaking down the agreed-upon verdict into separate awards for each individual infringement," the judge wrote.

Judge Rakoff has set a new November 5 date to retry the case.

MP3.com and TVT could not immediately be reached for comment.


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