Monday, September 19, 2011

UPDATE: 1st Circ. Tells Tenenbaum He Should've Quit While He Was Behind

Recording Industry Association of AmericaImage via WikipediaIn Sony BMG  Music Entertainment et al. v. Joel Tenenbaum (Case Nos. 10-1883, 10-1947, 10-2052), the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit last week reinstated the $675,000 judgment awarded the Recording Industry Association of America ("RIAA") in 2009 against Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum in a copyright infringement suit arising from his downloading of 30 copyrighted songs in 2004 from the defunct peer-to-peer network KaZaA (see "TUOL" posts 7/9/10, 8/3/09, 7/28/09).

The appellate court faulted now-retired U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge Nancy Gertner for ruling the judgment was "unconstitutionally excessive" and reducing it to $67,500. A jury had found Tenenbaum's infringement by downrighting copyrighted tunes from Beck, Nirvana and other artists to be willful and assessed damages of $22,500 for each of the 30 songs, within the damages range permissible under the copyright statute (17 U.S.C. sec. 101), which Judge Gertner slashed by a factor of ten to $2,250 per song.

The appellate court said Judge Gertner erred procedurally by tackling the constitutionality question before addressing Tenenbaum's remittitur motion (a request for a judge to reduce a jury award). The First Circuit in its 65-page decision did suggest "Congress may wish to examine" some of the Copyright Act issues raised by the case.

Defense attorneys contended that the Digital Theft Deterrence Act and federal copyright provisions were not supposed to target consumers. Tenenbaum appealed Gertner's finding, saying at the time that he couldn't afford to pay $67,500, so the four victorious record labels shouldn't step up their spending in anticipation of getting a $675,000 money order from Tenenbaum anytime soon.

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