The recording industry sued Jammie Thomas-Rasset for illicitly providing songs for distribution through peer-to-peer networks in 2007, giving the 32-year-old Brainerd, Minn., woman the dubious honor of being the first person sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for song sharing to actually have her day in court. Other individuals sued for sharing copyrighted songs on P2P networks opted to settle with the recording industry instead, usually paying fines amounting to a few thousand dollars.

But Thomas-Rasset decided to fight the civil charges brought on by the recording industry, and her defeat made for another historic moment – the first P2P lawsuit resulting in an RIAA victory.

Thomas-Rasset’s first trial resulted in jurors ordering her to pay the labels $220,000 in restitution. However, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis eventually concluded he erred on the side of the recording industry when he gave his final instructions to the jury and ordered a retrial.

What was it that Davis told the jury? Simply put, the judge said the recording industry didn’t need to prove Thomas-Rasset actually downloaded copyright-infringing songs belonging to the major labels.

Proving the defendant guilty may seem like a no-brainer, but the recording industry’s proof focused on the I.P. address for Thomas-Rasset’s computer. At the time of the first trial, the recording industry argued the I.P. address was proof enough to convict her, and the judge shared that viewpoint in his instructions to the jury.

But Davis started having second thoughts almost as soon as the jury returned a guilty verdict. This time around the judge is expected to instruct jurors that the recording industry must prove Thomas-Rasset was actually involved with the infringing activities, not just her I.P. address.

It’s kind of like proving someone was driving a car that was involved in an illegal activity. Sure, the car belongs to you, but that doesn’t mean you were driving the vehicle when laws were broken. Maybe a family member was driving, or maybe the car was stolen. No matter, the law has to prove you were behind the wheel when the crime took place.

But somebody must have been using Thomas-Rasset’s computer when the infringing activity occurred. During her first trial the recording industry claimed she made more than 1,700 songs available. However, as in most infringement cases, the plaintiff often only includes a few examples in the complaint. In the case of the recording industry vs. Thomas-Rasset, the labels cited only 24 examples.

As the new trial began on June 15, recording industry attorney Tim Reynolds told the jury the labels would prove Thomas-Rasset illegally shared songs. Thomas-Rasset’s new defense attorney – Kiwi Camara – countered that the defendant would testify she didn’t share any songs illegally, and that the labels would have to prove that she did. Again, it boils down to who was driving the car, er, computer when the alleged infringing activities took place.

As the new trial began, the judge issued his standard warnings to the jurors along with a new warning reflecting how the Internet has changed since Thomas-Rasset’s first trial in 2007. This time the judge, along with ordering jurors not to comment about the trial on personal blogs or social-networking sites, also ordered them to refrain from tweeting about the trial.

“You’ll be able to write your blogs or whatever you want to do,” ordered Davis. “But that’s at the end of the case.”