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Music The Courts

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

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:16PM (#32855332)

    After reading the article about Hollywood Accounting I wonder if the music industry does the same thing. You can say pirated music is the reason you're losing money but instead your cooking the books so a few people can make a lot of money off the profits. At the same time the RIAA should realize people will not stop pirating music and this isn't scaring people from stopping either and how much is it costing the RIAA for these trials I'm guessing it's a lot more than settlement, overall it seems like a net loss. Besides what was the actual damage done, I've never read a report saying how much money is actually lost by pirating one song. In the end the recording industry should realize that if they don't adapt they will die off.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:30PM (#32855470) Journal

    >>>completely disproportionate to the actual damages caused

    It appears the judge determined actual damages to be $2250 / 6 == $375 per song (minimum). Maybe she's taking into account prosecution costs (lawyers, security specialists to track the downloader, programmers, et cetera)

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

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer ( 912032 ) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:55PM (#32855746) Homepage Journal

    Come on, 2250 times the actual damages for copying music. Here the court (and the law I might add) is out of balance. The law should treat each case on merits and what damages there actually were, having the punishment fit the crime. Our system of justice is not supose to treat people as examples, without regard to what the effect of the judgement is going to be on the individual, the punishment to the individual needs to fit the crime, Here it does not. Corporate profits have trumped our laws and our politics. We need a change.

    I don't think this result was consistent with existing law. The judge conceded that under existing law a copyright infringement statutory damages claim should not exceed 2 to 6 times the actual damages. Had she applied that principle to her overly generous appraisal of the actual damages as being $1 per infringed work, and had she decided to "throw the book" at Mr. Tenenbaum and award 6 times the actual damages, the total judgment would be $180.

  • Re:go figure? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NewYorkCountryLawyer ( 912032 ) <ray.beckermanlegal@com> on Friday July 09, 2010 @05:57PM (#32855766) Homepage Journal

    2250 times what exactly? The price of an mp3 or the value of unlimited international distribution rights?

    There was no evidence of an actual "distribution" with in the meaning of the Copyright Act, let alone of him acting as a dispenser of "unlimited international distribution rights".

  • by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:27PM (#32856046)
    I live outside of the US. Lets say, as in the summary, I was fined US$1 per infringed work then:

    Currently, I pay NZ$1.50 per iTunes song.

    At its worst exchange rate a couple years back it was NZ$2.12 per song(I didnt purchase many at that time).

    If I had taken these songs instead, extradited to the US, fined, I would have to pay, lets see....US$340. Potentially less than the legitimate purchase price.

    PS: I take no moral stand, I work, have limited time outside work hours, and take the shortest path for various things even if it means paying.
  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:41PM (#32856148) Journal

    While completely disproportionate to actual damages, that is easily within a payable range (though not all at once).

    Is this the new standard for corporate extortion? "It's completely disproportionate, but if he's willing to give up his life and future he can pay it".

    It's bad enough that the system in the US (and most western countries) has become a simple matter of re-distributing wealth from the working class to the ownership class, but this is simply economic terrorism. Create a penalty that is so disproportionate that it frightens anyone who might consider not giving money to the corporation. Make it so that people are afraid to post their own original work to YouTube because the RIAA is likely to send a C&D letter "just in case". Send C&D letters when people use Creative Commons to make sure they learn who's boss. Make everyone pay and pay until they're willing to open their wallets, just to be left alone. Have the corporate media repeat the notion that anyone who believes in the public domain, anyone who might consider alternatives to old-fashioned copyrights is labeled a "pirate" or "anti-copyright radical".

    Make public libraries emblematic of "big government" and "socialism" so that municipalities who withdraw funding for those libraries seem patriotic. Equate regulation of business with tyranny.

    The new corporatism is much, much more dangerous to our society than terrorism.

  • Re:go figure? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld@gmai l . c om> on Friday July 09, 2010 @06:54PM (#32856272) Homepage
    Where was this in the opinion? I see where she says "Nevertheless, the awards in such cases are generally no more than "two to six times the license fees defendants 'saved' by not obeying the Copyright Act"--a ratio of statutory to actual damages far lower than the ratio present in this case" (pages 40-41) where she'd discussing the disparity between public performance cases and this one, but I do not see where she concludes as a matter of law the statute only permits that range for the instant case, just that the disparity suggests egregiousness.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:09PM (#32856408)
    You seem to be missing the point that this is a penalty for being found guilty of copyright infringement. Suppose the penalty were 3 months of prison time, would you argue against that since it's too "inconvenient"?
  • by Krahar ( 1655029 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:19PM (#32856496)
    Read the opinion. The amount is stupid because the jury was stupid and there is only so much the judge can do about it.
  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @07:44PM (#32856676) Journal

    Why is "inconvenient" in quotes? I never used that word, nor did parent.

    But I would argue that a penalty of 3 months in prison for copying $24 worth of songs is bat-shit insane.

  • by cynyr ( 703126 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @08:31PM (#32856984)
    I don't know, I think I'd take 3 months in jail over a 675k or even a 67.5k "fine". Seems like I would need to be making over 240k/year for it to be more expensive(overall), and thats just the 67.5k award, or 2.7million/year for the larger award.

    I would argue against the 3 month sentence, as i can drive home drunk, physically endangering hundreds of people and get far less than that for a first time offense.Maximum penalty for a first time offender with no aggravating factors, with no priors, is 30 days and/or $1000, and goes up to 3000 and 1 year for two+ aggravating factors, in the state of Minnesota[1]. So yes, sharing 24 songs a few hundred times, for no commercial gain, seems to me to be less of an issue than driving with a .19 BAC by yourself home from the bar. Think of how many traffic lights are between your bar, and home. How well could you drive with a .19BAC(0.08BAC is the limit in Minnesota). Now i'm not saying that driving below .08 is legal, it's just a DUI instead of a DWI[1]. Your second offense in 10 years is 2 days in jail/workhose and 8hours community service per day less than 30 days in jail[2].

    So yes, a basicly harmless act(at most a few hundred dollars of losses, counting the cost of each album shared* number of times shared to a unique computer), is getting someone a 67.5K fine, but no jail time, and no community service. You would need to pay back around 7k a year to pay it off, with interest, in ten years.

    Not stating that drunk driving is good, to be honest I think the penalties aren't harsh enough, but then if you take away a license to drive in the USA you really have no other option. Go us not wanting to pay for anything that someone else might use.

  • Car analogy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Friday July 09, 2010 @09:02PM (#32857154)

    See that FBI/INTERPOL message in the front of every video or DVD? When you copy it, you're making a risk assessment that if you get caught they're not going to put the full weight of the statutory limit against you

    Yes, I see that -- unconstitutional -- message. In essence, what the statutory limit says is that, if I get caught I have to pay for all those who weren't caught.

    It's like if the highway patrol said, "we will only catch one in a million speeder, but he will have to pay for all the million speeders we didn't catch".

    If I have one copy of a song, all the damage i have caused to the copyright owner is the lowest cost at which I could have got that song. Incidentally, for most songs this cost is zero, since they are available on the radio. Radio is paid by advertisement, and advertisement cost is bundled into the price of every product I buy.

    However, let's ignore that and assume that I couldn't have listened to that song in the radio, the price I would have had to pay would still be $1 or $2 at most. If a thousand other people downloaded, well, sue them and get $1 or $2 from each.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter