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Big media scores a major win over U.S. citizens

Want to pirate music?  You'd be better off breaking into a store and stealing CDs in the real world.

That's the message sent by U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge Rya W. Zobel who sided [PDF] with fellow Judge Nancy Gertner who upheld [PDF] a jury's ruling in the case RIAA v. Tenenbaum that the defendant was liable for $675,000 in damages for "willful infringement" of 30 songs via Kazaa.

Judge Gertner had subsequently reduced [PDF] the damages to $67,500, commenting:

[Recent] decisions have underscored the fact that the Constitution protects not only criminal defendants from the imposition of "cruel and unusual punishments," U.S. Const. amend. VIII, but also civil defendants facing arbitrarily high punitive awards.

The U.S. Recording Industry Association of America and its major media labels disagreed that asking a graduate student in physics, who typically earns between a $15,000-$30,000 USD yearly stipend, to pay $675,000 for non-commercial infringement of 30 works was unfair.  Thus it appealed the ruling.

Mr. Tenenbaum also appealed the ruling, with his attorney arguing the jury received improper instructions and that the fine was still too excessive.

The new ruling by Judge Zobel addressed those appeals, leaning heavily in the RIAA's favor.  As a result of the appeals, the reduction by Judge Gertner, who is now retired, is vacated.  That means Mr. Tenenbaum is now on the hook for the full $675,000 USD in damages, punishment the retired Judge Gertner argued was unconstitutionally cruel.

But Mr. Tenenbaum's options for escaping that massive fine are dwindling, after the U.S. Supreme Court declined [PDF] to hear the case.

Mr. Tenenbaum is at least fiscally a bit better prepared to deal with the crippling economic sanctions that a jury of his peers leveled on him.  He received a Ph.D in physics from Boston University in 2012, having written 9 peer-reviewed papers.  The average for various Ph.D positions in physics ranges from $80,000 to $90,000 USD [source], so with federal taxes and basic living expenses, Mr. Tenenbaum could theoretically pay off his debt to big media in 15 to 20 years. 

Joel Tenenbaum
Joel Tenenbaum recently received his Ph.D in physics from Boston University. [Image Source: BU]

The BU student was represented by Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson, a prominent critic of the RIAA.

Fortunately for grad students everywhere there probably won't be a lot more cases like Mr. Tenenbaum's; the RIAA has largely halted its threats campaign, after it lost far more money than it earned.  Of course if the RIAA succeeds in lobbying politicians to pass certain laws, taxpayers could be forced to pick up the high bills for new and even more ambitious copyright crackdowns at the behest of big media.

(The original number of songs to be considered in the 2007 trial was 31, but one song was removed.)

Source: U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts via Beckerman Legal



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Don't call it the RIAA
By cladari on 8/25/2012 9:25:07 AM , Rating: 5
Calling this organization the RIAA plays directly into the record companies hands. The RIAA/MPAA is used to deflect the bad guy reputation away from where it really belongs, the movie studios and record companies.

The headline should read "Columbia records et all destroys a kids life over 30 songs". This puts the heat where it belongs and doesn't let them hide behind an organization that people may or may not relate directly back to them.




RE: Don't call it the RIAA
By Pneumothorax on 8/25/2012 10:02:50 AM , Rating: 5
QFT, a quick wiki lookup on the RIAA shows this list:

Cary Sherman - RIAA
Colin Finkelstein - EMI Recorded Music
Bill Hearn - EMI Christian Music Group
Deirdre McDonald - Sony Music Entertainment
Terry Hemmings - Provident Music Group/Sony Music Entertainment
Kevin Kelleher - Sony Music Entertainment
Thomas Hesse - Sony Music Entertainment
Julie Swidler - Sony Music Entertainment
Luke Wood - Interscope Records
Jeff Harleston - Universal Music Group
Zach Horowitz - Universal Music Group
Mel Lewinter - Universal Motown Republic Group
Craig Kallman - The Atlantic Group
Paul Robinson Warner Music Group
Bob Cavallo - Buena Vista Music
Glen Barros - Concord Music Group
Mike Curb - Curb Records
Michael Koch[disambiguation needed] - Entertainment One U.S.
Tom Silverman - Tommy Boy Entertainment
Steve Bartels - Island Records

so 96% of RIAA is actually the record companies. I wish the media would routinely highlight this fact!


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