Judge Severs $675,000 Music File-Sharing Fine

Dennis Faas's picture

In what some experts are calling a huge setback for the recording industry, a Boston-area judge has cut a local man's fine for file-sharing offenses by 90 per cent. Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum will now pay $67,500 rather than the original $675,000.

In her courtroom on Friday, U.S. District court Judge Nancy Gertner found that the $675,000 fine was "unconstitutionally excessive" in considering Tenenbaum's offense: illegally downloading 30 songs and sharing them with others over the Internet.

Fine Could Receive Further Reduction

Furthermore, Gertner determined that the new fine, just one-tenth the original total, might still be considered excessive. (Source: thecrimson.com)

"There is no question that this reduced award is still severe, even harsh," Gertner noted in her 62-page report. "It not only adequately compensates the plaintiffs for the relatively minor harm that Tenenbaum caused them; it sends a strong message that those who exploit peer-to-peer networks to unlawfully download and distribute copyrighted works run the risk of incurring substantial damages awards." (Source: boston.com)

Most importantly, the dramatic fine reduction sends a big message to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA): that half-million-dollar-and-above fines are simply ludicrous in cases where ordinary people have been found guilty of downloading a handful of songs or albums.

Student says Fine "Equally Unpayable"

This most recent decision comes only a few months after Minnesota single mother Jamie Thomas-Rasset saw a $1.92 million penalty reduced to $54,000. She and the RIAA eventually settled on a $25,000 fine.

Both of these decisions indicate that judges are making real attempts to bring a touch of reality to controversial piracy lawsuits. Still, there's a long way to go: as the 26-year-old Tenenbaum said in a statement earlier, there's simply no way he'll ever be able to pay off $67,500, let alone $675,000.

"It's basically equally unpayable to me," Tenenbaum told reporters.

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