NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In SONY v Tenenbaum, the new District Judge assigned to the case has disagreed with the previous judge, and instead of reducing the $22,500 per file award to $2250 per file, has instead upheld the jury's verdict. The jury initially found defendant Joel Tenenbaum to have 'willfully' infringed the RIAA copyrights by downloading 30 mp3 files which would normally retail for 99 cents each, and awarded the plaintiff record companies $675,000 in 'statutory damages.' Tenenbaum moved to set the verdict aside on both common law remittitur grounds and constitutional due process grounds. Judge Gertner — the District Judge at the time — felt that remittitur would be a futility, and on constitutional grounds reduced the verdict to $2250 per file. The RIAA appealed. The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals remanded on the ground that Judge Gertner ought to have decided the question on remittitur grounds and reached the constitutional question prematurely. By the time the case arrived back in District Court, Judge Gertner had retired, and a new judge — Judge Rya Zobel — had been assigned. Judge Zobel denied the remittitur motion. And then Judge Zobel denied the constitutional motion, leaving the larger verdict in place. I think it is reasonable to expect Tenenbaum to appeal this time around."
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×
quantr writes "The Supreme Court has declined to hear Joel Tenenbaum's appeal. A jury in 2009 ordered Tenenbaum, of Providence, R.I., to pay $675,000 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs. A federal judge called the penalty constitutionally excessive, but the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it at the request of the Recording Industry Association of America. Tenenbaum's attorney, Harvard law professor Charles Nesson, said he's disappointed the high court won't hear the case. But he said the 1st Circuit instructed a judge to consider reducing the award without deciding any constitutional challenge. Nesson said 'Tenenbaum is just entering the job market and can't pay the penalty.'"
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Joel Tenenbaum has filed a reply brief in support of his petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, trying to get the Court to take on the thorny issue of copyright statutory damages in the age of mp3 files and micropayments."
FunPika writes with this excerpt from Wired: "A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a whopping $675,000 file sharing verdict that a jury levied against a Boston college student for making 30 tracks of music available on a peer-to-peer network. The decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a federal judge who slashed the award as 'unconstitutionally excessive.' U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner of Boston reduced the verdict to $67,500, or $2,250 for each of the 30 tracks defendant Joel Tenenbaum unlawfully downloaded and shared on Kazaa, a popular file sharing peer-to-peer service. The Recording Industry Association of America and Tenenbaum both appealed in what has been the nation's second RIAA file sharing case to ever reach a jury. The Obama administration argued in support of the original award, and said the judge went too far when addressing the constitutionality of the Copyright Act's damages provisions. The act allows damages of up to $150,000 a track." Update: 09/17 21:32 GMT by S : As it turns out, the article's explanation of the decision is a bit lacking; read on for NewYorkCountryLawyer's more accurate explanation.
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.
eldavojohn writes "The highly anticipated Joel Tenenbaum trial ended in a disaster for Tenenbaum. But worse for his highly publicized lawyer, Charles Nesson, they are both liable for payment of the court's decision to the RIAA. Nesson's pro bono agreement with Tenenbaum may turn out to be a seriously expensive experiment for the Harvard Law Professor." As the Ars story points out, though, it's "some fees incurred by the RIAA during the trial" for which he'd be liable, not the whole judgment amount.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The final brief (PDF) filed by the defendant Joel Tenenbaum in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum seems to put the final nail in the coffin on the RIAA's argument that 'statutory damages' up to $150,000 can be awarded where the record company's lost profit is in the neighborhood of 35 cents. Not only do Tenenbaum's lawyers accurately describe the applicable caselaw and scholarship, something neither the RIAA nor the Department of Justice did in their briefs, but they point out to the Court that the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit — the appeals court controlling this matter — has itself ruled that statutory damages awards are reviewable for due process considerations under the guidelines of State Farm v. Campbell and BMW v. Gore. The brief is consistent with the amicus curiae brief filed in the case last year by the Free Software Foundation."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "There seems to be a bit of confusion in RIAA-land these days, caused by the only 2 cases that ever went to trial, Capitol Records v. Thomas-Rasset in Minnesota, and SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, in Boston. In both cases, the RIAA has recently asked for extensions of time. In Thomas-Rasset, they've asked for more time to make up their mind as to whether to accept the reduced verdict of $54,000 the judge has offered them, and in Tenenbaum they've twice asked for more time to prepare their papers opposing Tenenbaum's motion for remittitur. What is more, it has been reported that after the reduction of the verdict, the RIAA offered to settle with Ms. Thomas-Rasset for $25,000, but she turned them down."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Despite having had some time to get their act together, Obama's Department of Justice has filed yet another brief defending the RIAA's outlandish statutory damages theory — that someone who downloaded an mp3 with a 99-cent retail value, causing a maximum possible damages of 35 cents, is liable for from $750 to $150,000 for each such file downloaded, in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. The 25- page brief (PDF) continues the DOJ's practice of (a) ignoring the case law which holds that the Supreme Court's due process jurisprudence is applicable to statutory damages, (b) ignoring the law review articles to like effect, (c) ignoring the actual holding of the 1919 case they rely upon, (d) ignoring the fact that the RIAA failed to prove 'distribution' as defined by the Copyright Act, and (e) ignoring the actual wording and reasoning of the Supreme Court in its leading Gore and Campbell decisions. Jon Newton of p2pnet.net attributes the Justice Department's 'oversights' to the 'eye-popping number of people [in its employ] who worked for, and/or are directly connected with, Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music's RIAA.'"
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the defendant has filed a motion for new trial, attacking, among other things, the constitutionality of the jury's $675,000 award as being violative of due process. In his 32-page brief (PDF), Tenenbaum argues that the award exceeded constitutional due process standards, both under the Court's 1919 decision in St. Louis Railway v. Williams, as well as under its more recent authorities State Farm v. Campbell and BMW v. Gore. Defendant also argues that the Court's application of fair use doctrine was incorrect, that statutory damages should not be imposed against music consumers, and that the Court erred in a key evidentiary ruling."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the Boston RIAA case in which the defendant, represented by Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School, admitted liability at his trial, the Court has entered judgment in favor of the RIAA for the monetary award of $625,000 fixed by the jury. However, the Court left open the questions of whether the amount is excessive, and whether attorneys fees and/or sanctions should be awarded, and has scheduled further briefing of those issues. The Court granted the RIAA much, but not all, of the injunctive relief it requested. In an unusual step, the Court issued a 38-page decision (PDF) explaining in some detail the Court's views of the Fair Use defense in the context of cases like this, and indicating that there are some factual scenarios — not applicable in this particular case — in which it might have concluded that the claims were barred by Fair Use. E.g. it declined to rule out the possibility that creation of mp3 files exclusively for space-shifting purposes from audio CDs a defendant had previously purchased might constitute fair use."
ljaszcza writes "Daily Tech brings us a story about Sony's run-in with the Mexican police. (Billboard picked up the story as well.) It seems that they raided Sony's offices and seized 6,397 music CDs after a protest from the artist, Alejandro Fernandez. Fernandez had signed a seven-album deal with Sony Music; he completed that commitment and then left for Universal. During the time with Sony, he recorded other songs that did not make it into the agreed-upon seven albums. Sony Music took it upon themselves to collect that material and release it as an eighth album. Fernandez claims that he fulfilled his contract with Sony, and residual material belongs to him. Hmm. Precedent from the Jammie Thomas infringement and distribution case gives us $80K per song. Sony vs. Joel Tenenbaum gives $22.5K per song. So 6,397 CDs at an average of 8 songs/CD is 51,176 infringing songs, with (IMHO) intent to distribute. The damages to Fernandez should be $1,151,460,000 using the Tenenbaum precedent or $4,094,080,000 using the Thomas precedent. Seems very straightforward to me."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Just when you think this case couldn't get any stranger, it now appears that the defendant's 'legal team' in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum is passing the hat, taking up a collection. Only the reason for the collection isn't to defray costs and expenses of further defending the action, but to pay the RIAA the amount of the judgment so that their client won't have to declare bankruptcy. I would suggest there might have been a much better way of avoiding bankruptcy. It's called 'handling the case competently.'"
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The jury awarded the record company plaintiffs $675,000 in the Boston trial defended by Prof. Charles Nesson, SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. I was not surprised, since exactly none of the central issues ever even came up in this trial. The judge had instructed the jurors that Mr. Tenenbaum was liable, and that their only task was to come up with a verdict that was more than $22,500 and less than $4.5 million. According to the judge, her reason for doing so was that, when on the stand, the defendant was asked if he admitted liability, and he said 'yes.' The lawyers among you will know that that was a totally improper question, and that the Court should not have even allowed it, much less based her holding upon the answer to it."
Several readers sent us updates from the Boston courtroom where, mere hours before the start of trial, a federal judge ruled out fair use as a defense. Wired writes that "the outcome is already shaping up to resemble the only other file sharing trial," in which the RIAA got a $1.92M judgement against Jammie Thomas-Rassert. The defendant, Joel Tenenbaum, has already essentially admitted to sharing music files, and the entire defense put together by Harvard Prof. Charles Nesson and his students turned on the question of fair use. The judge wrote that the proposed defense would be "so broad it would swallow the copyright protections that Congress has created." Jury selection is complete and opening arguments will begin tomorrow morning. Here is the Twitter feed organized by Prof. Nesson's law students.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "The RIAA's motion to keep secret the record companies' 1999-to-date revenues for the copyrighted song files at the heart of the case has been denied, in the Boston case scheduled for trial July 27th, SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. The Judge had previously ordered the plaintiff record companies to produce a summary of the 1999-to-date revenues for the recordings, broken down into physical and digital sales. On the day the summary was due to be produced, instead of producing it, they produced a 'protective order motion' asking the Judge to rule that the information would have to be kept secret. The Judge rejected that motion: 'the Court does not comprehend how disclosure would impair the Plaintiffs' competitive business prospects when three of the four biggest record labels in the world — Warner Bros. Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and UMG Recording, Inc. — are participating jointly in this lawsuit and, presumably, would have joint access to this information.'"
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In what I can only describe as a shocker, the Judge in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum has, on her own, issued an order questioning whether the jury will be allowed to decide the 'fair use' issue at all, or whether the Judge herself should decide it. Judge Nancy Gertner's decision (PDF) notes that the courts have traditionally submitted the fair use defense to the jury, but questions whether that was appropriate, since the courts have referred to it as an 'equitable' — as opposed to a 'legal' — defense. This decision came from out of the blue, as neither party had raised this issue. IMHO the Judge is barking up the wrong tree. For one, all across the legal spectrum in the US, 'equitable' defenses to 'legal' claims are triable to a jury. Secondly, as the Judge herself notes, the courts have traditionally submitted the issue to the jury. It also seems a bit unfair to bring up a totally new issue like that and give the parties only 6 days to do their research and writing on the subject, at a time when they are feverishly preparing for a July 27th trial."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In the Boston, Massachusetts case SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the Court had ordered the RIAA to produce certain revenue information, which would be relevant to a determination of the 'fair use' defense. The RIAA has now moved for a protective order to keep the information 'confidential.' In the opinion of the undersigned, the fact that the motion is made jointly by four competitors shows that any claim suggesting the information is valuable or 'proprietary' would be unfounded, and the sole purpose for making the motion is to keep the information out of the hands of lawyers for other defendants, thus increasing the defense costs in other cases."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Professor Charles Nesson, the Harvard law professor serving pro bono as counsel to the defendant in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, has been ordered to show cause why sanctions should not be issued against him for violating the Court's orders prohibiting reproduction of the court proceedings. The order to show cause was in furtherance of the RIAA's motion for sanctions and protective order, which we discussed here yesterday. The Judge indicated that she was 'deeply concerned' about Prof. Nesson's apparent 'blatant disregard' of her order."
suraj.sun writes to tell us that the RIAA has asked a federal judge to order the removal of what they are calling "unauthorized and illegal recordings" by Harvard University's Charles Nesson of pretrial hearings and depositions in a file-sharing lawsuit. "The case concerns former Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum, who Nesson is defending in an RIAA civil lawsuit accusing him of file-sharing copyrighted music. Jury selection is scheduled in three weeks, in what is shaping up to be the RIAA's second of about 30,000 cases against individuals to reach trial. The labels, represented by the RIAA, on Monday cited a series of examples in which they accuse Nesson of violating court orders and privacy laws by posting audio to his blog or to the Berkman site."