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Court Reinstates $675k File Sharing Verdict 388

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.
NYCL writes, "The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to reach the Due Process issue in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum. In a 65-page decision (PDF), which rejected all of Tenebaum's counsel's other arguments, and which otherwise praised Judge Gertner's handling of the trial, the First Circuit felt that under the doctrines of judicial restraint and constitutional avoidance, it was premature to decide the constitutional issue without first disposing of the defendant's motion on common law, remittitur grounds. The Court gave several examples of scenarios which might have occurred, had the lower court decided the remittitur question, which would have avoided embarking down the constitutional path."
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Court Reinstates $675k File Sharing Verdict

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  • by Shadow99_1 ( 86250 ) <.theshadow99. .at.> on Saturday September 17, 2011 @09:59AM (#37428486)

    The problem is no one smart would be allowed to stay on the Jury... a hint of intelligence disqualifies you these days...

  • Re:Gee, I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @09:59AM (#37428492) Journal

    The Constitution is the law of the land. A judge who cannot apply it properly is a big problem. This government is just completely off the rails. There is not an ounce of legitimacy left in it.

  • by Maow ( 620678 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @10:09AM (#37428554) Journal

    What happened to him? Long time no submissions or other news with him mentioned. This is his field.

    His input was superb and most welcome... until he started accusing people of trollery for simply disagreeing with some of his points.

    I was shocked & dismayed to see that. I don't value his contributions nearly as much, but you're right, his input probably would be insightful right about now...

  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @10:22AM (#37428632)

    The majority of the population don't care about people who are violating other people's copyright. That's just the way it is.

    Things may very well change in twenty years, when the kids who file shared have grown up and compose a majority of the electorate, but I doubt it.

    Crimes get defined by the majority. Deal with it.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @10:45AM (#37428730) Homepage

    Which majority made the DMCA possible?

  • by morari ( 1080535 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @11:08AM (#37428850) Journal

    To ensure that he is a slave and that his children will be slaves. That's what debt is all about, whether it's brought on by that flashy new car, your overpriced suburban house, that prestigious college diploma, a few medical bills, or some asinine court costs. You can't be a proper citizen until you're at the financial mercy of the system. How else are corporations going to legally keep slaves nowadays?

  • Re:Thanks Obama! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by smpoole7 ( 1467717 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @11:30AM (#37428960) Homepage

    It's a shame, but realistically, Tennebaum will probably just file for bankruptcy. The RIAA will get virtually nothing, Tennebaum's credit will be hosed for a few years, and that'll be the end of it.

    But knowing that bankruptcy is available to the defendant illustrates just how vindictive the RIAA and MPAA really are. They have to KNOW that people can get away from the fines with a chapter 7, so that makes me believe that they seek these ridiculous awards thinking that they'll discourage others.

  • Re:Gee, I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @11:40AM (#37429010) Journal

    The law in this case ought to be irrelevant:

    "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. "
    - 8th Amendment

    I hope they take this to the Supreme Court.

  • Re:whatta dumbass (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bogidu ( 300637 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @11:56AM (#37429106)

    "And juries aren't there to debate the merits of the law, only to decide if the individual in question broke it."

    And thus the BIGGEST problem with the "PEOPLE" in this country, believing that when you're on a a jury your are simply there to follow a judges orders. Serving on a jury is NOT simply deciding whether a person did or did not break the law but is the one time in your life that as an individual you are not only permitted but dutybound to sit in judgement of unjust laws. Jury duty is the one opportunity that the average joe can actually be "we the people". Why do you think lawyers get to screen jury members? They're looking for those people who actually have an ounce of deductive reasoning ability and who MIGHT apply it. []

  • by satuon ( 1822492 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:03PM (#37429148)
    The music industry needs to make people afraid to download songs, and afraid to NOT SETTLE when they send them nastygrams asking for several thounsand. The point here is to make an example.

    "This guy downloaded 30 songs. See what happened to him? It could have been you."
  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:25PM (#37429268)

    So much for the Corporate Lawn Jockey in the White House.

    Not that all the OTHER politicians aren't welded at the lips to the collective corporate sphincter, but it's well worth reminding anyone who thinks ANY candidate from either Party will be different how they roll after they get you vote.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Antisyzygy ( 1495469 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:27PM (#37429288)
    Though I can't say that the poster you are responding to is a reasonable, and rational human being, I can say that you are a fucking moron if you think that a 675,000 dollar fine is better than 5 years in prison. Thats more than most people make in 14 years, and it will ruin this kids life over something that isn't even a big deal.
  • by Antisyzygy ( 1495469 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:33PM (#37429332)
    Greatly exceed? By 67.5 times? Give me a fucking break. If you permanently injure someone you don't have as bad of a punishment.
  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:43PM (#37429408)

    I don't know. Is that figure so hard to believe?


    Suppose I offer a copyrighted recording for download and people in fact do download it. The way this file sharing software works, the people that download it by default are then also offering for download.

    Unless you are claiming that nobody else can also be held accountable for illegally distributing the same songs in question, then you must conclude that if the key number in question is valid then at least 22,500 other people can also be held responsible for the very same songs distribution on file sharing networks by the very same courts.

    Under this scenario where 22,500 people can all be held accountable, each for 22,500 downloads.. we are now talking about 506 million downloads being claimed..

    Are you suggesting that 506 million downloads isn't hard to believe?

    It is obvious that either the 22,500 figure is bullshit, or the system is set up to punish one individual for the crimes of up to 22,500 other people....

  • Re:Gee, I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fjandr ( 66656 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @12:49PM (#37429450) Homepage Journal

    constitutional guidance as far as monetary fines go

    See 8th Amendment, specifically nor excessive fines imposed.

    Any reasonable person, which was and should be the test for the above, should consider $675,000 to be an excessive fine for the alleged crime.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @01:55PM (#37429782)

    Personally, I would eat a couple of years in jail at a low security prison than a $600,000+ fine. Low security prison, frankly, isn't that bad. You piss away a couple of a years reading books, and then you are done. Whenever you go into a job interview, when you get to the point where you need to disclose a prison record, you just explain that you were in because you shared 30 music files on your computer. As an employer, I wouldn't balk for a second. If anything, I would be more inclined to hire in a tie as a small attempt to outweigh a brutal injustice. Being two years behind in your job growth/promotion path is annoying, but trivial.

    A $600,000 fine is brutal. It means that you will never be able to save enough to retire. You will absolutely end up becoming a dependent on the state and have to rely entirely on social security when you retire. You are have been fucked for the rest of your life. You will never have enough money to do anything more than scrape by. You will never be able to take out a loan for basically anything. Unlike being stuck with a mortgage of that amount, you can never declare bankruptcy. You are in financial servitude to the state for the rest of your entire life.

    Better for the State to outright steal a few years of your life than to be enslaved for the next 60+ years that this poor kid is going to be alive for.

  • This post is quite misleading. It gives the impression that the Court reinstated the verdict. The Court merely remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the Due Process issue had been decided prematurely. Otherwise praising Judge Gertner's handling of the case, the Court concluded that the District Judge's reasoning for bypassing the common law remittitur motion was incorrect, and that she must first decide the remittitur motion. I've submitted my own post on this decision [], which accurately describes the import of the decision.

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