Last month the judge in the case of Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum versus four of the world’s most powerful music labels decided that his original $675,000 penalty was unconstitutional. Even though the jury-awarded damages were subsequently reduced by 90%, Tenenbaum is clear – he has no means to pay the amount. As expected the case will go to appeal, as neither he nor the RIAA are happy.
In common with the earlier major file-sharing case in the United States involving Jammie Thomas, last month a judge decided that the damages awarded against Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum were excessive and unconstitutional.
“The Constitution protects not only criminal defendants from the imposition of ‘cruel and unusual punishments’,” wrote District Judge Nancy Gertner in her ruling, “but also civil defendants facing arbitrarily high punitive awards.”
Just as Thomas’s penalties were slashed on appeal, last month the same held true for Tenenbaum. The court reduced the jury’s award from the original $675,000 ($22,500 per infringed work) to $67,500 ($2,250 per infringed work). Tenenbaum had shared 30 songs.
While Tenenbaum expressed relief at the reduced amount, he said that he still had no resources to meet the costs and all the signs pointed to an appeal from his legal team.
Yesterday Tenenbaum slammed the new reduced amount of $67,500 claiming it is “equally as insane” as the previous year’s $675,000 damages award.
“Sixty-seven-and-half thousand dollars only sounds reasonable because it was so much before,” said the 26 year-old, while noting that even the smaller amount would result in his bankruptcy.
According to the Boston Globe, Tenenbaum’s lawyer professor Charles Nesson, has filed a one-page notice saying he will appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He says he intends to challenge several rulings made by District Judge Nancy Gertner, notably her decision which stopped jurors hear that Tenenbaum had offered to settle out of court in 2005.
But of course, the knife cuts both ways and Tenenbaum isn’t the only one who intends to appeal – so does the RIAA. Referring to the decision to reduce the damages by 90%, yesterday an RIAA spokeswoman said that the labels “had no choice but to appeal the erroneous and unprecedented decision’’.
While the notices of appeal were filed last month, the actual appeals will be filed in the coming months, but no matter what happens, no artists will receive any of the money. Earlier the RIAA told us that any damages paid will be used to fund new anti-piracy campaigns instead.