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"Joel Tenebaum fights back with the help of leading internet lawyers"  (Source:
Massachusetts student to pay $22,500 per shared song

Joel Tenebaum, a graduate student at Boston University, is the nation’s second defendant to go to trial against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on file sharing charges. In July of 2009, his case went to federal court where the judge ruled that the defendant pay $675,000 in damages to the RIAA. The only other file sharing defendant to trial against the RIAA was Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who had to pay $1.92 million for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.

The Obama Administration, which recently asked five former RIAA lawyers to serve in the Justice Department, is supporting the verdict, stating that copyright infringement, "creates a public harm that Congress is determined must be deterred."

In lieu of the tension between the Chinese Government and Google regarding the recent IP theft and  account hacking problems, it isn’t hard to see why the Obama Administration is standing so firmly against copyright infringements. Whether a defendant is sharing files or hacking into a corporation, their act violated copyright laws, and failing to take action could make the administration's policy look inconsistent.

Under the copyright act, fines are determined by the judge and jury and can range from $750 to $150,000 . The Justice Department defends its ruling with the following statement.

The current damages range provides compensation for copyright owners because, inter alia, there exist situations in which actual damages are hard to quantify. Furthermore, in establishing the range, Congress took into account the need to deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights in an environment where many violators believe they will go unnoticed.

Tenebaum’s defense team is going back to work on $22,500 per-song ruling, in hopes of lowering the penalty to $750 per-song.

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By Chosonman on 1/21/2010 2:34:41 PM , Rating: 5
I really don't understand how the RIA can prove they lost money from one individual sharing music? And how can they sue for the amount of that amount of money if the person sharing the music didn't make a dime? Where are these numbers coming from?

And to look at the bigger picture, how many people who downloaded the music would have actually paid for it in the first place? And what benefits if any did the record company and artist gain from their music being available to people for free? More publicity? Better name recognition? Maybe they could use that to gain better royalties from paying customers for advertisements? I'm really skeptical as to really how much damage this one individual has done to warrant such a fine. This is just ludicrous.

RE: Really?
By Chosonman on 1/21/2010 2:39:21 PM , Rating: 5
Also, if the music and recording industry was really serious about making money off their "work" I use that term loosely. They should work on packaging their albums so people would WANT TO BUY IT. I really love the idea of paying $20 for a 5 cent CD and paper cover. What ever happened to capitalism and working to make money? Now whoever has the most lawyers makes the money. The system is fucked up.

RE: Really?
By Spivonious on 1/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: Really?
By jimhsu on 1/21/2010 4:19:40 PM , Rating: 5
The "cost" to produce an album is a variable cost, and thus is indeed the material cost+labor. Fixed costs (paying the artist) are sunk costs unless a VARIABLE royalty system is in place. It "costs" the studio no more than the material cost to make a copy of essentially identical information.

RE: Really?
By JediJeb on 1/22/2010 11:00:22 AM , Rating: 3
It "costs" the studio no more than the material cost to make a copy of essentially identical information.

While I in no way agree with the amount of the fine, this statement isn't really true. It also "costs" the studio to promote the album through advertising, overhead for other workers involved with the production of the album, ect...

What I disagree with though is the estimate of what sharing the file cost the record label in lost income. If this is true, 22K+ per song, and this is only one of thousands or even millions of people sharing music,then that would mean the record companies are actually loosing more money than they are making which I seriously doubt. Did they court actually know the number of times the song was downloaded and multiply that by the average retail price of the song? That would mean that each song this person shared was downloaded 22,000 times since you can pick up most music for around $1 per song.

What about songs that are shared that are no longer sold? How could you possibly estimate "lost income" from those? To me the copy right laws should be rewritten so that if a record company does not offer for sale a song for over 1 year they lose all rights to it and they revert to the artist who can then decide if they want to lease the rights to another company. That way the rights stay where they belong, with the artist. And if the artist wishes to offer their music for download for free or a nominal fee they can do it all they want.

RE: Really?
By CHAOQIANG on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
RE: Really?
By CENGJINYIWEI on 1/31/10, Rating: 0
RE: Really?
By invidious on 1/21/2010 5:16:00 PM , Rating: 5
In a capitalist economy the cost to make the product is largely irrelivant to end pricing. Supply and demand is everything. Obviously there is no demand for physical CDs and if the idiots at the RIAA spend 1% as much on R&D as they do on suing people they would know this.

If the record industry can't make money selling music in a way we want and at a price we are willing to pay then I suggest they get out of the music production industry. Bands will always make music and people will always listen to it, if the recording industry want to profit off of the situation then they need to add value to the process. All they currently do is leach off of the stanglehold that they have for some reason been allowed to maintain over our wallets.

The movie/tv industry have just as much piracy to deal with and they are both thriving because they are adapting to the needs of the customers with things like netflix and hulu.

RE: Really?
By RandallMoore on 1/21/2010 8:01:12 PM , Rating: 5
You are 100% correct. That's why every single artist needs to do what Radiohead did a while back; pay what you think it is worth. Cut the RIAA completely out of the equation and we will break this cycle.

RE: Really?
By Spivonious on 1/25/2010 10:03:10 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, but we're not talking selling price, we're talking losses. If a song costs $1, and this guy was sharing a couple thousand songs to potentially 100,000 people, then it's quite easy to get to six figure losses.

The only problem with cases like this is that they can't prove how many people grabbed a copy of the song. So they go for worst case. Honestly, the guy should have just paid the thousand dollars instead of taking it to court. He really shouldn't be sharing the songs at all.

You can make all the arguments you want about music being overpriced, music not being as good, blah blah, but if you're curious about a song there are plenty of free sample clips. If they're not enough, then spend $1 and grab it on one of the many online music stores. Worst case is that the song is horrible and you lost $1.

RE: Really?
By OKMIJN4455 on 1/24/10, Rating: -1
RE: Really?
By WUMINJUN on 1/25/10, Rating: -1
RE: Really?
By Shadowself on 1/21/2010 2:39:23 PM , Rating: 2
That is the point of the way the law is currently written. The RIAA does not *have* to prove that it lost any money at all.

This does not make it right. This just makes it according to the law.

RE: Really?
By killerb255 on 1/21/2010 4:03:05 PM , Rating: 2
The burden of proof in civil cases is lower than that of criminal cases.

Criminal case = "beyond reasonable doubt."
Civil case = "more likely than not"

RE: Really?
By deeznuts on 1/21/2010 4:07:55 PM , Rating: 2
Technically its preponderance of the evidence, but yea, same thing.

easy fix for this. File bankruptcy. A college student will not have a ton of assets. Sure credit will get fucked up a bit but hey, vs. paying a $675k fine? Wipe out all that College credit card debt too.

RE: Really?
By killerb255 on 1/21/2010 4:23:51 PM , Rating: 3
Either form of bankruptcy would work for them. If they don't have a lot of assets, then Chapter 7. If they do (i.e.: they don't want to lose a relatively new vehicle), then Chapter 13.

RE: Really?
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/21/10, Rating: 0
RE: Really?
By Oregonian2 on 1/21/2010 6:44:26 PM , Rating: 5
You're saying then that the student is basically "done for". Might as well turn into a criminal seeing as how there is no downside to it anymore.

RE: Really?
By mcnabney on 1/21/2010 10:01:36 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah. I mean think about it.

You are stuck with a legal judgement that will put you in the poorhouse for the rest of your life.

If I didn't have family I would seriously consider taking revenge on the RIAA/attorneys that wrecked my life. There is nothing more dangerous than a person with nothing to lose and these insane judgements are doing just that.

/grew up taping music off the radio and dubbing albums/tapes from friends
//I must owe billions despite all of my music being legal now

RE: Really?
By MatthiasF on 1/22/2010 12:52:32 AM , Rating: 3
Bull, you can get a jury award discharged by a bankruptcy judge. This couple was able to do just that (after many appeals) and I'm sure the precedent will be used for any copyright infringers in a similar situation today.

RE: Really?
By MonkeyPaw on 1/21/2010 2:49:35 PM , Rating: 5
The best way to make your case is with your wallet, and the RIAA (and MPAA) must really hate me. I rarely buy music, and when I do, it's select songs from I'd say in a given year, I might spend ~$25 total on music (I also don't buy movies and only go to the theater on free passes). Before the industry decided to go ape on old ladies and 14 year olds, I used to buy lots of CDs and movies. As soon as they decided to have a war over their "product," I decided that they don't get my money. I don't illegally download, but rather I decided that I would rather go without their product than continue to fund a legal machine that protects an ancient business model.

RE: Really?
By Fallen Kell on 1/21/2010 3:00:58 PM , Rating: 3
That is just adding fuel to their argument. They simply point to the fact that their sales are down and say, "See, we only made $1.5Billion this year as opposed to $1.7Billion last year. Sales are down because of piracy. We need better anti-piracy laws to protect us and our profits."

RE: Really?
By Denigrate on 1/21/2010 3:38:36 PM , Rating: 5
Never mind that sales are down due to crap product. Digital age means that we don't pay $15-$20 for an entire album with a single good song. Instead we pay $1 for the one good song from our online retailer of choice.

In today's market, artists would be better off to NEVER sign a record deal, and instead self promote via any of the social networking sites selling their own tunes for a 100% profit for themselves. This would also remove the "canned" sound we get from most "new" artists.

RE: Really?
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 1/21/2010 6:25:49 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with I think everyone here that an Artists deserves pay for their work. If a lot of people like it, they make a lot, if not well they will not earn a lot... The mighty voting dollar at work. However, when someone downloads a song, album, movie or whatever for free, well that is a crime (you either pay for something, it's a gift to you, make it yourself or you steal something). So, I believe it is OK to go after someone who trades and downloads for free. However, $22,000 or even $500 per download is just crazy. Maybe $100 per download to prove a point kind of fine.

However, you nailed a good point... download a song for $1.00 per song that you like. This is the future and if you are an artist with any computer skills you can cut out a lot of managers, lawyers and whomever else. That way you can keep 90 cent on the dollar (transaction fees, web page hopefully covered by the 10%). I do not know what an artist receives now per $1.00 but I would not doubt it is less then 5 cents on the dollar.

RE: Really?
By Hellfire27 on 1/21/2010 9:20:19 PM , Rating: 2
Through iTunes independently you get about $0.67 for every dollar (although bigger bands get better deals). But even at $0.67 on the dollar you come out ahead as you didn't have to pay for the physical CD and packaging. Also you don't have to have anything in stock to sell digitally.

RE: Really?
By TSS on 1/21/2010 6:45:15 PM , Rating: 2
The digital age means a song isn't worth $1 (that's just what apple has set for it and the music industry accepted it). It's worth nothing at all as soon as it's digitallized.

If you could have somebody to do whatever you want whenever you want would you pay them money? hell no. Their service becomes worthless because it's always available. Yes that comes down to slaves, but the point is, those didn't get paid, and MP3's aren't human so they don't suffer either.

When i go to a concert i go to hear the performer, not the performance. Most if not all digital music is altered, as in multiple tries in a soundproof studio with high quality equipment etc. It'll be closer to perfection than performers will ever be able to achieve with their own vocal chords. So if i want to hear the performance, i'll turn on a MP3.

In this age, artists would be better off putting their music online on youtube for free and then reap the added income from concerts from more people seeing your work. Because to be frank, nowerdays if i want to hear a song i haven't got i don't buy it and i don't download it. I look it up on youtube.

The Artic Monkeys where the first to show that.

RE: Really?
By rcc on 1/21/2010 3:41:55 PM , Rating: 4
I disagree. The OP handled it in a correct, mature, and legal manner. If the issue still bothers him, he can work toward getting laws changed.

On the other hand, the person that pirates the music or video for the same reasons is sending the wrong message to the industry. They are saying, "look, there is a market, I want this. You just have to figure out how to make me pay".

If you don't like what a company(s) is doing, don't buy their stuff. If enough people agree, the company will change.

RE: Really?
By Chosonman on 1/21/2010 4:01:22 PM , Rating: 2
That's probably why music sales are down and the RIA is blaming and suing pirates to make up for it.

RE: Really?
By killerb255 on 1/21/2010 4:04:10 PM , Rating: 2
It works for RAMBUS, doesn't it? (substitute "pirate" for "alleged patent violator")

RE: Really?
By energy1man on 1/21/2010 6:14:59 PM , Rating: 2
I think it would be a reasonable argument that sales are down due to illegally high prices, caused by price collusion, and the resulting violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

Maybe the recording industry will face similiar fines for every song sold online, due to said violations. I doubt it.

Personally I buy all my music, but it would be interesting to see as a defense to file sharing, that is was necessary due to the illegal collusion in setting prices by the industry. However two wrongs probably do not make a right.

RE: Really?
By foolsgambit11 on 1/21/2010 7:55:35 PM , Rating: 2
Hahaha! That would be hilarious - a $22,500 fine per song downloaded assessed against the recording industry for collusion. That would teach them a lesson. Or, more accurately, it would teach the companies that replaced every major label a lesson, since the majors would be out of business.

RE: Really?
By Solandri on 1/22/2010 4:48:13 AM , Rating: 2
That's probably why music sales are down and the RIA is blaming and suing pirates to make up for it.

Music sales are up. By the RIAA's own statistics, they shipped more units in 2008 than they did in 2007.

Revenue is down, but that's just because more people are buying singles from online stores like iTunes, instead of an entire CD to get just one or two songs they want.

RE: Really?
By bupkus on 1/21/2010 4:28:52 PM , Rating: 2
If the RIAA can say they have lost money due to piracy and quantify it by using industry wide numbers, then a defendant should then be open to demand that the alleged injured parties quantify and substantiate the amount of that loss due to the defendant.
Also, to face one's accusers should include and require a supported and specific quantification of injuries attributed to the actions of the defendant.

All too often the offices of the judges and prosecutors are just too closely located. They pass by each other in the halls, say hello, get just a little too friendly.

As to the need for better anti-piracy laws, that is just another way of saying, "Hang em High". I might argue that often we either need better enforcement or a more balanced legal system that needs not create "examples to be made of." That just sounds too Chinese Government.

RE: Really?
By killerb255 on 1/21/2010 5:00:58 PM , Rating: 2
After typing my previous explanation of civil vs criminal cases (even though I didn't get the terminology correct), I'm wondering if this is considered a civil or criminal case.

Typically, the plaintiff in a criminal case is "the people of :insert jurisdiction here:," whereas the plaintiff in a civil case is usually a person, group of people, or company.

If the past cases were, indeed, civil cases, then the RIAA doesn't have to quantify the amount of money loss to that degree, as long as "preponderance of evidence" has been met. If these were criminal cases, then this would be a different story altogether--they would have to quantify to that degree to prove guilt "beyond reasonable doubt."

RE: Really?
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/21/2010 6:36:26 PM , Rating: 2
The numbers often do no have to be proved up as direct loss. First, you have to remember that an action is created through federal fine amounts. A civil prosecution of these same cases may or may not be able to rely on the federal fine amounts, but could also go for exemplary/punitive damages for acts of theft acts constituting willful torts.

If you walk up to me and sucker-punch me in the face on the street, my only monetary damages may be 1 tissue for a nose bleed. That doesnt mean I could only recover $0.01 if I took you to court. There is a punitive measure to the recoverable amounts. I could take you for thousands. I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar artifice being implemented here.

RE: Really?
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/21/2010 6:39:31 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, (now reading the part of your post about the level of proof for damages) the damages do not have any particular standard of proof. Fact finders (jury or judge) are free to assign their own numbers in damages. Otherwise, they would have to go on "proven/supported" (to whatever degree) numbers from either the plaintiff or defense, meaning they would HAVE to choose between the 2 preferred numbered. This is not the case. Typically, if the losing side brings a motion, there is only a brief review to ensure the amount awarded could have, in some way, been rationally justified by the evidence. This is a VERY lenient standard.

RE: Really?
By AlexWade on 1/21/2010 4:42:44 PM , Rating: 1
$25 per year! Whoa, big spender! I spend about $0 per year on RIAA labels most years. I like to buy my CD's secondhand. But last year I just had to have a Weird Al CD. So the RIAA got some of my money.

RE: Really?
By Wererat on 1/23/2010 6:11:48 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. I don't refrain from buying commercial music because I pirate it, I refrain because their business practices offend me and their prices are higher than I think the music is worth.

RE: Really?
By dragonbif on 1/21/10, Rating: -1
RE: Really?
By inperfectdarkness on 1/21/2010 3:35:10 PM , Rating: 2
a much simpler solution is for the file-sharer to declare bankruptcy. lawsuit judgments are unsecured the RIAA is essentially screwed out of any hope it could have of reimbursement.

although detrimental to one's credit in the short term--the financial impact of higher interest rates, significantly less than the cost of paying off such a ludicrous debt legitimately.

isn't anyone surprised that even with all the MPAA & RIAA "hell raising" with regards to file-sharing--the E-Book industry seems to be immune?

RE: Really?
By Denigrate on 1/21/2010 3:41:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think it has to do with the nature of people who actually read. Any ebooks that I download (if not available for purchase in ebook format) I have either already bought the hard copy to put on the shelf, or soon will.

RE: Really?
By killerb255 on 1/21/2010 5:03:10 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on how much representation they can get.

Music = RIAA. Big name.
Movies = MPAA. Big name.
Games = ESA. Not-so big name, but might get there some day.
e-books = ????
pr0n = ????

RE: Really?
By Mojo the Monkey on 1/21/2010 6:43:01 PM , Rating: 2
I commented on this above, but I just wanted to say you cant really get out of a legal debt very easily by filing for bankruptcy .

A federal judgment can be renewed every 10 years. You dont think this grad student is going to have some property in 10 years, even if he files for bankruptcy tomorrow? How about when they renew again in 20? 30?

Better to just work out a settlement for what he does have to discharge the entire judgment. Its not worth the RIAA's legal fees.

RE: Really?
By lazylazyjoe on 1/23/2010 12:19:25 AM , Rating: 2
Just leave the country. That way your debt is uncollectable

RE: Really?
By Uncle on 1/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: Really?
By OKMIJN4455 on 1/24/10, Rating: -1
RE: Really?
By WUMINJUN on 1/24/10, Rating: -1
RE: Really?
By WUMINJUN on 1/24/10, Rating: -1
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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