Last Updated on Monday, 27 August 2012 16:18 Published on Monday, 27 August 2012 16:18
Joel Tenenbaum is out of options. A Massachusetts District Court judge ruled the $675,000 fine levied against him is indeed appropriate and refused calls for a new jury trial, meaning the former Boston University graduate student will pay a staggering $21,774 for every song he shared over P2P networks.
The case has made its way through the courts over the past five years, with a jury initially finding Tenenbaum guilty of copyright infringement and levying the fine. His lawyers argued the fines were excessive, and the Judge presiding over the case at the time agreed. She lowered the fines to $67,500, or $2,177 per song, which record industry lawyers balked at and appealed to higher courts.
Through these appeals, and a refusal by the Supreme Court to hear the case, the original $675,000 fine was reinstated. Tenenbaum’s final appeal was to request a new jury trial, which was denied by a new judge presiding over the case at the District Court level, effectively ending the case.
(On a side note, it probably didn’t help Tenenbaum that it took him forever to accept responsibility for his own actions, which only seemed to anger the judges even more. Additionally his lawyers seemed to love to grandstand more than actually defend — see this site — but I do digress.)
With no recourse left, Tenenbaum must now pay his fines. But are those fines excessive to a general public that does little (if anything) to stop piracy? You could probably argue that.
There is conflicting evidence that piracy actually results in losses to the extent that the courts are imposing on file sharing defendants. While RIAA and others point to the falling revenues of the industry in general as a sign that piracy is affecting them, it may be more due to the move away from physical media to digital than anything to do with piracy.
In fact, there’s actually evidence to the contrary. A North Carolina State University professor compiled data on download statistics of new music found on file sharing service BitTorrent. He actually found a correlation between high physical sales and the amount of time before actual release that the album is found on BitTorrent.
That suggests that RIAA’s moves to reign in its lawyers are a smart move. It’s a waste of money for them, and if they’re really complaining about falling revenues, maybe spending so much money on fighting a battle with so little return isn’t the wisest investment. Then again, copyright infringement is copyright infringement, and stealing is stealing.
Downloading pirated music is one in the same as trading in stolen goods. Those who try to argue to the contrary sound foolish. At the same time, the court system needs to take a look at how its prosecuting these cases, and award the record industry damages more in line with reality.
Until then, nobody is going to take these judgements seriously. [extremetech]