30 Songs? That'll Be $675,000

A Boston jury yesterday ruled that file sharer Joel Tenenbaum would have to pay the Recording Industry of America $675,000 for sharing 30 copyrighted songs. The hefty award was all the more surprising because Tenenbaum was represented by a crack team of legal eagles from Harvard’s law school. The trial didn’t unfold nearly the way they planned…

The trial was an almost entirely one-sided affair. Plaintiffs built their case with forensic evidence collected by MediaSentry, which showed that he was sharing over 800 songs from his computer on August 10, 2004. A subsequent examination of his computer showed that Tenenbaum had used a variety of different peer-to-peer programs, from Napster to KaZaA to AudioGalaxy to iMesh, to obtain music for free, starting in 1999. And he continued to infringe, even after his father warned him in 2002 that he would get sued, even after he received a harshly-worded letter from the plaintiffs’ law firm in 2005, even after he was sued in 2007, and all the way through part of 2008.

And when he took the stand on Thursday, Tenenbaum admitted it all, including the fact that he had “lied” in his written discovery responses and at his first deposition in September 2008.

Tenenbaum’s admissions were so clear-cut, and so damning, that Judge Gertner-who had recruited Nesson to represent the formerly lawyer-less 25-year-old-took the basic issue of infringement away from the jury, determining that no reasonable jury could find for Tenenbaum on that issue. The jury of five men and five women, all white and all from the Boston suburbs, were left only to determine the issue of willfulness and damages.

Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Charles Nesson, the poker proselytizing co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, described the verdict as “a bankrupting award.” None of the money will go to the artists whose work Tenenbaum shared.

This is the second time a file sharer has lost their case against the RIAA. Last month a Minnesota jury ruled that Jammie Thomas-Rasset owed $1.92 million for sharing 24 songs. Nesson has made murmurs about challenging the constitutionality of the awards, a fight we’d love to see even though the RIAA stopped suing individual file sharers back in December.

Oy Tenenbaum! RIAA wins $675,000, or $22,500 per song [Ars Technica]
PREVIOUSLY: Good Day For Bad Guys: Court Says ‘Pirate’ Jammie Thomas-Rasset Must Pay RIAA $1.92 Mill
RIAA Pockets Filesharing Settlement Money, Doesn’t Pay Artists Whose Copyrights Were Infringed
RIAA To Stop Suing File Sharers

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