RIAA vs. Joel Tenenbaum: $675,000 P2P piracy verdict OK'ed

Federal Judge Nancy Gertner has signed off on a jury's damages award of $675,000 for illegal file sharing. In her commentary, she excoriates Joel's defense for its behavior during the trial. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers look on with horror.

By Richi Jennings. December 8, 2009.

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Your humble blogwatcher selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Knife Or Not...

    David Kravets wires the story:

A federal judge on Monday finalized a $675,000 jury verdict against ... Joel Tenenbaum ... who went to trial after the [RIAA] sued him for file sharing. ... Tenenbaum was only the nation’s second individual defendant not to settle.

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U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner ... also issued an injunction preventing the 25-year-old Boston University student from file sharing ... [but] declined an RIAA request to censor Tenenbaum’s speech. ... Gertner also expanded on a pretrial ruling in which she declared Tenenbaum could not render a so-called “fair use” defense ... [writing] that Tenenbaum’s version of fair use was “so broad that it would swallow the copyright protections that Congress created, defying both statute and precedent.”
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Mike Albee adds detail:

The final judgment at the trial, $675,000 against the young downloader, seemed both disappointing and ridiculously unwarranted to [his defense]. Judge Gertner signed off the jury's damage amounts, which means that Sony BMG is entitled to $112,500, Warner Bros. gets $225,000, Arista Records gets $45,000, and Universal receives $292,500.

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The conclusion of the trial was predictable if you consider the other 30,000 cases. ... Powerful, multinational corporations dominate the music industry. These corporate titans brought Joel to court in hopes of settling for a large monetary penalty, which would then deter other college kids from downloading music.
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But Nate Anderson calls it a "tragedy":

Gertner ... would have given Tenenbaum's arguments about "fair use" a truly sympathetic hearing were it not for the shoddy behavior of his legal team ... led by Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson. ... A few weeks before trial, it dropped a bombshell; Nesson now wanted to claim that all file-sharing was legal.

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But what's striking about the judge's memo is her frank admission that she might have gone along with a more limited form of this defense. ... Gertner was ready to consider the idea that even years of unrepentant P2P use might have been allowable so long as they were in the dark days of Napster and music industry's own ridiculous attempts to launch music stores online.
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Mike Masnick says it's a "shame":

It's no secret that almost all of the observers of Charles Nesson's defense of Joel Tenenbaum -- no matter where you stood on issues related to file sharing and copyright -- felt that Nesson's plan was a complete and total disaster, doing himself, his client, and all copyright reformers a huge disservice. It was a complete disaster that made it that much harder for those with reasonable arguments to be heard. And, to date, he's done nothing but continue to suggest that he has no clue how badly he screwed up.

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Once again, we're left wondering what Nesson was possibly thinking, and what would have happened if a competent litigator was actually in charge of his case.
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And Andre Yoskowitz notes the numbers:

Despite signing off on the giant fine, Judge Gertner once against expressed concern over the "astronomical penalties" available to copyright holders.

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Tenenbaum has said he will declare bankruptcy leaving the record labels with nothing if the fine is ruled constitutional on January 5th.
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So what's your take?
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And finally...

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher
  Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter, or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

 
 
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