A federal judge yesterday bench slapped the Recording Industry of America, calling a jury’s $675,000 verdict against file sharer Joel Tenenbaum both eye-popping and unconstitutional. The judge struck a strikingly populist tone in reducing the verdict to $67,500, arguing that the same legal reasoning that protects large corporations from excessive punitive damages also protects “ordinary people” like Tenenbaum.
The judge could have reduced the verdict in two ways. One, called remittitur would have required the RIAA to consent to a reduced verdict, which, obviously, they would not do. That would result in a new trial, back to square one. Rather than go for another spin on the litigation merry go round, the court instead decided to rule on constitutional grounds.
[I] conclude that the jury’s award of $675,000 in statutory damages for Tenenbaum’s infringement of thirty copyrighted works is unconstitutionally excessive. This award is far greater than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interests in compensating copyright owners and deterring infringement. In fact, it bears no meaningful relationship to these objectives. To borrow Chief Judge Michael J. Davis’ characterization of a smaller statutory damages award in an analogous file-sharing case, the award here is simply ‘unprecedented and oppressive.'”
The RIAA, of course, plans to appeal.
Judge slams, slashes “unconstitutional” $675,000 P2P award [Ars Technica]