The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to uphold the $675,000 penalty handed down to a Boston student who shared 30 songs online.
Joel Tenenbaum used a peer-to-peer file-sharing program called Kazaa to download and share music on the web back in 2004. In 2009, a jury ruled Tenenbaum was guilty of “willful infringement” of copyright and awarded the Recording Industry Association of America $22,500 for each song listed in the case.
In the ruling, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reminded the court that at the time Congress was trying to stamp out file sharing – suggesting that Tenenbaum was being made an example of. But few people today have any recollection of Kazaa. Now anyone can stream music from their computer for free.
In fact, according to NBC News, in 2012 illegal music sharing was down by 17 percent and music sales were up – the first revenue increase the industry saw in 13 years.
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Tenenbaum attempted to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court and argued that the damages awarded against him were unconstitutional, according to TorrentFreak. In May 2012, his request was denied. On Monday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 2009 ruling will stand.
“Tenenbaum invites us to assume that he is 'the most heinous of noncommercial copyright infringers,'" the ruling states. "We need not go so far as to accept his offer. The evidence of Tenenbaum's copyright infringement easily justifies the conclusion that his conduct was egregious. Tenenbaum carried on his activities for years in spite of numerous warnings, he made thousands of songs available illegally and he denied responsibility during discovery. Much of this behavior was exactly what Congress was trying to deter when it amended the Copyright Act.”
The damages are meant to have a “deterrent effect.” But where will Tenenbaum find $675,000? Perhaps the only lesson he will learn is to charge for file sharing.