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Music The Courts

RIAA's Tenenbaum Verdict Cut From $675k To $67.5k 253

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-order-of-magnitude-closer-to-sanity dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the Court has reduced the jury's award from $675,000, or $22,500 per infringed work, to $67,500, or $2,250 per infringed work, on due process grounds, holding that the jury's award was unconstitutionally excessive. In a 64-page decision (PDF), District Judge Nancy Gertner ruled that the Gore, Campbell, and Williams line of cases was applicable to determining the constitutionality of statutory damages awards, that statutory damages must bear a reasonable relationship to the actual damages, and that the usual statutory damages award in even more egregious commercial cases is from 2 to 6 times the actual damages. However, after concluding that the actual damages in this case were ~ $1 per infringed work, she entered a judgment for 2,250 times that amount. Go figure." That $2,250 per infringed work figure should look familiar from Jammie Thomas-Rassett's reduced damages judgment — $54,000 for 24 songs.
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RIAA's Tenenbaum Verdict Cut From $675k To $67.5k

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  • go figure? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:15PM (#32855320) Homepage

    Go figure.

    Or read the opinion, which will obviate the need for figuring. She explains her justification for the damages figure (3 times the statutory minimum) quite thoroughly. She also points out that, like Thomas in the Jammie Thomas-Rasset case, the defendant willfully violated the law then lied under oath to try to escape it, which seems to inform her decision that some sort of serious punishment is justified.

  • Re:go figure? (Score:4, Informative)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:32PM (#32855494) Homepage
    I would disagree. Perjury, like contempt of court, is a criminal matter entirely separate from the primary (or whatever the sharkspeak word is) case.,/i>

    That's why I said informed, not based. While you are correct that perjury is generally a criminal matter separate from the case in chief, it is not necessarily completely disconnected. For example, perjury can be grounds for dismissing an action. Here, she seemed to interpret his failure to tell the truth under oath (I'm not saying he actually did, just her conclusion was that he did) goes to the willfulness of his misconduct, and willfulness is definitely a factor in damages here.
  • But the songs.. (Score:1, Informative)

    by matthiasvegh (1800634) on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:35PM (#32855536)
    Has anyone here actually looked at the songlist? $2250 for *these*?
    01 - Incubus - New Skin
    02 - Green Day - Minority
    03 - Outkast - Wheelz of Steel
    04 - Incubus - Pardon Me
    05 - Nirvana - Come As You Are
    06 - Green Day - When I Come Around
    07 - Green Day - Nice Guys Finish Last
    08 - Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box
    09 - Nine Inch Nails - The Perfect Drug
    10 - Blink 182 - Adam's Song
    11 - Limp Bizkit - Rearranged
    12 - Limp Bizkit - Leech
    13 - Linkin Park - Crawling Hybrid
    14 - Deftones - Be Quiet And Drive
    15 - The Fugees - Killing Me Softly
    16 - Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
    17 - Red Hot Chili Peppers - By The Way
    18 - Red Hot Chili Peppers - My Friends
    19 - Beck - Loser
    20 - Eminem - My Name Is
    21 - Eminem - Drug Ballad
    22 - Eminem - Cleaning Out My Closet
    23 - Beastie Boys - (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)
    24 - The Ramones - The KKK Took My Baby Away
    25 - Monster Magnet - Look To Your Orb For The Warning
    26 - Aerosmith - Pink
    27 - OutKast - Rosa Parks
    28 - Rage Against The Machine - Guerrilla Radio
    29 - Goo Goo Dolls - Iris
    30 - Aerosmith - Water Song/Janie's Got A Gun

    There is maybe like 4-5 songs actually worth something; the rest will just fade in time. Tenenbaums bill of $67.5K on the other hand, probably won't..
  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:36PM (#32855538)
    you can't any more, not for something like this. They'll garnish his wages.
  • by BonquiquiShiquavius (1598579) on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:39PM (#32855564) Journal
    Read the decision. The judge agrees with you. She finds the original award unconstitutionally excessive, and thus has grounds to reduce it; however, she still must still respect the findings of the jury, who were "going for broke" in her words. In this case, determining the size of the award fell to the jury, not the court. There's only so much she could do.

    Actually there's probably only so much the jury could do as well, given that Tenenbaum not only admitted to years of copyright infringement, but also admitted to lying about it to authorities when caught. No jury likes a weasel.
  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday July 09, 2010 @10:29PM (#32857546) Journal

    It's a 750 dollar minimum with, as I recall, a few criteria that can allow for triple damages, such as willfull infringement.

    The lower bound is the same - $750 - regardless of whether the infringement was willful or not. However, the upper bound changes from $30k to $150k in the case of willful infringement.

    However, it's interesting to read the actual reasoning by which the judge arrived to the given figure (which is $750 x 3). Seriously, RTFA!

    For the reasons I discuss below, I reduce the jury’s award to $2,250 per infringed work, three times the statutory minimum, for a total award of $67,500. Significantly, this amount is more than I might have awarded in my independent judgment. But the task of determining the appropriate damages award in this case fell to the jury, not the Court. I have merely reduced the award to the greatest amount that the constitution will permit given the facts of this case.

    There is no question that this reduced award is still severe, even harsh. 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. Tenenbaum’s behavior, after all, was hardly exemplary. The jury found that he not only violated the law, but did so willfully.

    Reducing the jury’s $675,000 award, however, also sends another no less important message: The Due Process Clause does not merely protect large corporations, like BMW and State Farm, from grossly excessive punitive awards. It also protects ordinary people like Joel Tenenbaum.

    In other words, she started from the figure provided by the jury, and then tried to reduce it as much as possible. She seems to be doing this specifically by looking at numerous other cases in which punitive damages were awarded to arrive at the reasonable absolute figure, as well as a reasonable ratio of punitive amount to compensation for the plaintiff:

    Notice of section 504(c)’s extraordinarily broad statutory damages ranges, standing alone, does not in any meaningful sense constitute “fair notice” of the liability that an individual might face for file-sharing. In a case of willful infringement such as this one, the maximum damages per infringed work -- $150,000 -- are 200 times greater than the statutory minimum of $750. Since the jury found that Tenenbaum willfully infringed thirty copyrights, its award could have ranged from a low of $22,500 to a high of $4,500,000. For anyone who is not a multi-millionaire, such “notice” is hardly more illuminating than the notice that BMW and State Farm had that their fraudulent conduct might lead to the imposition of a punitive damages award ranging from $0 to infinity.

    Since section 504(c) failed to provide Tenenbaum with fair notice of the liability he could incur for filesharing, it is imperative that I review other copyright cases to determine whether the jury’s $675,000 award here fell within a discernible pattern of awards of which Tenenbaum could have taken note, or was instead an unforeseeable outlier. ...

    I conclude that an award of $2,250 per song, three times the statutory minimum, is the outer limit of what a jury could reasonably (and constitutionally) impose in this case

    Then the explanation as to why the 3x multiplier over the minimal amount of $750: ... there is a long tradition in the law of allowing treble damages for willful misconduct. ... Given the record before me, I conclude that the most reasoned approach is to reduce the jury’s award to three times the statutory minimum. Although this decision will not be entirely satisfactory to some, it at least has the virtue of finding some basis in the long history of courts and legislators sancti

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