The $675,000 Question
Tenenbaum was one of the last persons sued under the RIAA’s legal campaign against P2P file-sharing where the trade organization filed individual lawsuits against people suspected of swapping songs. Represented by Harvard law professor Charles Nesson, Tenenbaum admitted to downloading and sharing thousands of tunes and was ordered by the jury to pay $675,000 for distributing 30 copyrighted tracks.
Nesson and Tenenbaum were back in court yesterday, arguing that the 1999 law used to calculate damages had “produced absurd results” and had violated the student’s constitutional rights.
Appearing before U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner, who presided over last summer’s trial, Nesson now contends Tenenbaum should pay no more than $21 in damages – the approximate total price of 30 songs purchased from iTunes for 99 cents per.
“The idea that somehow Congress has done this, it’s almost like an insult to the Congress,” Nesson said referring to the federal law under which the $675,000 fine was issued, according to the Boston Globe.
Regardless of how many songs a P2P user is suspected of sharing, the RIAA often whittles the number down to a smaller amount. When you consider the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, it’s much easier proving someone may have illegally distributed five, 20 or even 20 songs than proving thousands were infringed upon.
As you can probably guess, recording industry lawyers didn’t go along with Nesson’s reasoning that Tenenbaum should pay only iTunes sticker prices.
Saying Tenenbaum ignored repeated warnings to stop sharing songs, Sony BMG Music Entertainment lawyer Timothy M. Reynolds told the judge, “This defendant has no one to blame but himself.”
But Gertner seemed to be considering Nesson’s latest argument, asking, “Is there another case in the galaxy that’s held up damages to that degree?”
Nesson asked the judge to drastically lower the $675,000 fine or order a new trial. Which is kind of a redundancy because if the fine is lowered, the labels are expected to ask for a new trial anyway.
Although the RIAA filed suit against thousands of suspected P2P music pirates, Tenenbaum’s case was only the second to make it to trial.
In 2007 Minnesota woman Jammie Thomas-Rasset was found liable for trading 24 songs and was fined $222,000. A second trial resulted in Thomas-Rasset being fined $1.92 million. She is currently appealing the decision.
Click here to read the complete Boston Globe article.