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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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Where do I sign up for the protest!
By faster on 8/25/2012 10:53:22 AM , Rating: 2
It is cases like this that have the ability to capture the public's attention and spark the complacent citizen to action.

The record companies are out of control and motivated by greed.

The court system is out of touch with the common citizen and has become a tool of corporate population control. For whatever reason, the US courts have been granting more and more power to our corporations. From letting them start PAC's to control American political elections, to allowing them to fine an average citizen $675k for sharing a few songs on the internet, our courts are giving all control in our society over to the corporations.

Our congress wants to pass laws to have the American taxpayer pay for enforcement of whatever policies the corporations want.

The ability to share information over the internet is constantly being eroded. The US government already has all US network traffic monitored, now it also wants public companies like facebook to back doors in its systems to grant access to the greatest population monitoring platform ever devised. I always thought it ironic that if the government required you sign up for a facebook account, there would be widespread outrage, but just by making it available, people flock to it to record their personal information.

There are so many important things to protest about right now, but a shocking lack of protests. I need an app to sign up for social protests over important issues. Can’t someone invent that?

RE: Where do I sign up for the protest!
By senbassador on 8/25/2012 1:16:20 PM , Rating: 4
"The court system is out of touch with the common citizen and has become a tool of corporate population control. For whatever reason, the US courts have been granting more and more power to our corporations."

No, actually, the courts are doing their jobs just fine. They're only interpreting the laws that Congress passed. If anything, take it up with Congress and the Senate.

By MrPickins on 8/27/2012 10:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
The Supreme Court is doing just that:

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

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