Federal court to review $67,500 music piracy fine

Tenenbaum case review first time court to consider appropriateness of damages against individuals in RIAA copyright cases

By , Computerworld |  Government, copyright, riaa

For the fist time, a federal appellate court has been asked to consider the appropriateness of the damages being sought by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against individual copyright infringers.

The case involves Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate who in 2009 was ordered by a federal jury in Boston to pay $675,000 in damages for pirating 30 songs.

That award was reduced to $67,500 by a district court judge last year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit today heard oral arguments on appeals filed by Tenenbaum, who wants the award reduced even further or thrown out, and by the RIAA, which is seeking a bigger judgment.

The U.S. Department of Justice has also filed an appeal in the case, seeking clarity on the appropriate standard that should be used when computing damages in copyright infringement cases involving individuals.

A three-judge panel of the appellate court will consider the arguments and will likely issue a judgment sometime later this year.

Tenenbaum is one of thousands sued by the RIAA for music piracy over the past few years. But his is only the second case to actually go to court, and the first one to be heard by a federal appeals court.

The only other similar RIAA music piracy case to go to court involves Jammie Thomas, a Minnesota native who is fighting a $1.92 million-judgment awarded against her for pirating 24 songs.

That case has already gone to trial three times and is now headed for a fourth showdown in court.

Tenenbaum's case goes back to Sept. 2005 when he was first accused by the RIAA of illegally downloading and distributing copyrighted songs over a file-sharing network.

The RIAA claimed that it had found over 800 pirated songs on Tenenbaum's computers though it decided to pursue claims only against a representative sample of 30 of those songs.

Tenenbaum admitted to pirating the songs during the trial. That admission resulted in the original $675,000 verdict against him.

Joel Harrow, a Harvard University law school student who is representing Tenenbaum in the case today, said that even the reduced amount of $67,500 is grossly inappropriate.

"We think that $67,500 is too much for sharing 30 songs on a file sharing network. He caused minimal harm," Harrow contended.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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