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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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  • Music is BAD hm'kay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linebackn ( 131821 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @10:21AM (#37428626)

    So children, what has this taught us today? That's right, music is DANGEROUS.

    What was once part of the human condition, bringing people together, binding their society, and begging at an instinctual level to be shared for the propagation of all human kind, is now owned by a few companies who will sue you to an early grave.

    Destroy all of your radios, CD, and MP3 players. This stuff is more dangerous than radioactive waste.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @10:47AM (#37428750)
    Copyright law allows up to $150,000 per violation to discourage commercial copyright infringement. That's when someone makes a bootleg CD and sells a tens of thousands of copies for few bucks each. What happens in this case is that the bootlegger is liable for (say) 15 tracks x $150,000 each. But in the process, this indemnifies all his customers. The CDs they bought aren't real, they're contraband. But because the ringleader behind the whole thing was caught and punished, and restitution made to the IP owners, they get to keep their CDs and are not liable to be sued for owning contraband.

    What happens in filesharing is quite different. Say you share a song with 10,000 people. For a judgement approaching the $150,000 per song max to make sense, punishing you with that fine has to indemnify all those people you shared with. Otherwise you can fine Tenenbaum $22,500 for making 10,000 copies of a song, but you can also fine each of the 10,000 people he shared with $22,500 each for making the same song available to each other. Thus netting the record company a potential $225 million for 10,000 copies whereas in the bootleg CD case they could only net $150,000 for the 10,000 copies.

    This country really needs to pass a copyright law which distinguishes between these two cases. The current copyright statutes make sense for commercial copyright infringement when there's a single perpetrator behind it all. A new copyright statute needs to be made to cover cases of peer-to-peer filesharing, which recognizes that 10,000 people sharing a sing with each other means each person on average only made 1 copy. Punishment needs to reflect that average, meaning something on the order of $100 should be adequate. Either that or limit copyright holders to suing one and only one filesharer per song, ever. Right now, we're allowing record companies to sue 10,000 people on the basis of making 100 million copies, even though only 10,000 copies were ever made.
  • by LordKronos ( 470910 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @11:25AM (#37428942)

    Bullshit. I used to believe that crap, then a few years ago I got an opportunity to serve on a jury for the first time. I'd say 2/3 of the jury were pretty smart in one way or another.

    When picking a jury, you can't just disqualify as many people as you want. Each side has only a limited number of jurors they can dismiss without reason. They can dismiss an unlimited number of jurors for good reason, if the judge agree's it's a good reason, but I don't think "because he's too smart" is going to be a good reason to do so in the judges eyes. So sure, they could use their limited number of no-reason dismissals to try and get rid of smart people, but the problem is, you quickly run out those, and then you are stuck with whatever jurors get called as a replacement.

    Furthermore, it's fairly difficult to figure out who's smart just based on the questions that get asked. The judge just asks for simple stuff like your occupation and a few questions to try to determine any bias...whether you know anyone involved with the case, whether someone you know or are related to has been involved in a similar case, whether you or someone you know has been a victim of the sort of crime about to be tried, etc.

  • Re:Thanks Obama! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poofmeisterp ( 650750 ) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @02:27PM (#37429944) Journal

    IANAL - But when I declared bankruptcy in 2003, 2 of the things I remember you could not write off were student loans and court judgements.

    Yeah.. You're right.

    If you commit a felony, the court record disappears after X number of years, depending on the county (in the U.S.) If you get a judgment for compensation and you can't pay it off, it will stay on your record indefinitely until you do.

    So, from a logical standpoint in terms of information retention, sharing music is a worse crime 'on your record' than repeatedly beating your significant other to a bloody pulp.

    Something seems a bit... odd... about... this....... yeah.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito