US court confirms Tenenbaum copyright fine


A US file-sharer who was fined more than $600,000 for sharing 30 songs online has been told his original fine must stand, following a lengthy appeal process.

In 2009 Joel Tenenbaum was ordered to pay costs of $675,000 for sharing songs on file-sharing website Kazaa after he was taken to court by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on behalf of four record labels: Sony, Warner Brothers, Arista Records and UMG Recordings.

Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate, had been pursued for damages relating to 30 infringed songs. However, it is alleged the number of songs he distributed, over an eight year period, was far more.

Following a lengthy route through the US legal system, including an appeal to the Supreme Court, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled on June 25 that the original penalty should stand.

Circuit Judge Howard wrote: “From 1999 to at least 2007 Tenenbaum downloaded and distributed copyrighted music without authorisation, using various peer-to-peer networks.

“Tenenbaum knew that his conduct was illegal, but he pressed on, ignoring warnings from his father, his college, and recording companies.

“At trial, Sony presented evidence that Tenenbaum's activities led to the same type of harm that Congress foresaw: loss of the value of its copyrights, reduced income and profits, and job losses.”

Tenenbaum argued that the award of $675,000 violates due process because it is not tied to the actual injury that he caused, which he estimates to be no more than $450, or the cost of 30 albums at $15 each.

However, Judge Howard wrote: “This argument asks us to disregard the deterrent effect of statutory damages, the inherent difficulty in proving damages in a copyright suit, and Sony's evidence of the harm that it suffered from conduct such as Tenenbaum's.”

Tenenbaum has so far not commented on the ruling.

Joel Tenenbaum, sony, warner brothers