In a case with national implications, Providence native and BU student Joel Tennenbaum has been ordered to pay $675,000 to four record labels for illegally downloading and sharing music. The jury trial in Boston – the nation’s second music-sharing lawsuit to go to trial – was only focused on damages since Tennenbaum admitted that he downloaded and shared hundreds of songs by Nirvana, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins and other artists. Here’s more from the Associated Press, via the Providence Journal:
Under federal law, the recording companies were entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement. But the law allows as much as $150,000 per track if the jury finds the infringements were willful. The maximum jurors could have awarded in Tenenbaum’s case was $4.5 million. …Last month, a federal jury in Minneapolis ruled a Minnesota woman must pay nearly $2 million for copyright infringement.A lawyer for a Boston University student who admitted illegally downloading and sharing music urged a federal jury Friday to “send a message” to the music industry by awarding only minimal damages. The jury began deliberating the case Friday afternoon.
After Tenenbaum, 25, admitted Thursday he is liable for damages for 30 songs at issue in the case, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner ruled that the jury must consider only whether his copyright infringement was willful and how much in damages to award four recording labels that sued him over the illegal file-sharing. In his closing statement Friday, Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, repeatedly referred to Tenenbaum as a “kid” and asked the jury to award only a small amount to the recording companies. At one point, Nesson suggested the damages should be as little as 99 cents per song, roughly the same amount Tenenbaum would have to pay if he legally purchased the music online.
“This is a federal case, and what is it about?” he said. “It’s about a kid in his bedroom clicking on a computer screen. It seems out of proportion.” But Tim Reynolds, a lawyer for the recording labels, recounted Tenenbaum’s history of file-sharing from 1999 to 2007. Tenenbaum admitted on the witness stand that he had downloaded and shared more than 800 songs. “The defendant is a hard-core, habitual, long-term infringer who knew what he was doing was wrong, but did it anyway,” Reynolds told the jury.
Under federal law, the recording companies were entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement. But the law allows as much as $150,000 per track if the jury finds the infringements were willful. The maximum jurors could have awarded in Tenenbaum’s case was $4.5 million.
Jurors ordered Tenenbaum to pay $22,500 for each incident of copyright infringement, effectively finding that his actions were willful. The attorney for the 25-year-old student had asked the jury earlier Friday to “send a message” to the music industry by awarding only minimal damages.
Tenenbaum said he was thankful that the case wasn’t in the millions and contrasted the significance of his fine with the maximum.
“That to me sends a message of ‘We considered your side with some legitimacy,'” he said. “$4.5 million would have been, ‘We don’t buy it at all.'”
He added he will file for bankruptcy if the verdict stands.
The verdict seems extremely excessive to me. It’s like punishing someone speeding on a highway with a ticket for $5,000 when everyone else is speeding too.