Supreme Court Declines To Review Outrageous $650,000 Fine Against Student Who Downloaded and Shared 30 Songs

We have been following the outrageously abusive fines being imposed on citizens for downloading and sharing songs — obscenely large fines allowed by Congress under laws written by lobbyists for the music and movie industries. Law firms have been targeting even people who try to inform citizens of their rights. Now, in one of the most abusive cases involving a former Boston university student, the Supreme Court has refused to review a $675,000 fine against Joel Tenenbaum, 28, for downloading and sharing 30 songs. Despite the general condemnation of these actions, Congress is cowed by pressure from the industry lobby. The most abusive litigation is directed by the Recording Industry Association of America.


The ridiculous award was handed down by a jury in 2009 — $22,500 per song. Notably, a federal judge called the fine unconstitutionally excessive and reduced it to $67,500 — still quite high. However, the First Circuit reinstated that original penalty in an appeal from the industry lawyers and now the Supreme Court has refused to review the matter.

The use of the law to deal with “consumer copying” has turned it into a nightmare for ordinary citizens — and a bonanza for industry lawyers.

The RIAA appears to have an open revolving door for members or staff who help it out in hammering citizens. For example, Mitch Glazier, Senior Executive Vice President, is heralded on the RIAA website as responsible for the draconian laws being used against citizens. The website states that “[b]efore joining RIAA, Glazier served as Chief Counsel for intellectual property to the influential Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he helped draft and steer into law a series of copyright reforms including the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, and the 1997 No Electronic Theft Act, among other key intellectual property laws.” RIAA then gave him a job and a huge amount of money. The RIAA was long criticized for its lavish expenditures on members of Congress. Congress has not only given the RIAA what it has demanded but has put its lawyers on the federal bench. In the meantime, legislators are falling over themselves to give more powers to RIAA lawyers.

Source: Yahoo

34 thoughts on “Supreme Court Declines To Review Outrageous $650,000 Fine Against Student Who Downloaded and Shared 30 Songs”

  1. The RIAA is a scourge. Anyone associated with this organization should be a pariah. As a former head of the RIAA, that is why Hilary Rosen did not deserve a key press of support in her recent dust up regarding her remarks regarding Ann Romney. With the RIAA in her background, one has to automatically question her motivation, ethics and methodology.

    For those above that opine that the taking of intellectual property should have a cost to the perpetrator, that is fine. But we do not put people in jail for ten years for a parking mater violation, nor execute them for littering (though we do sometiems come close with three strikes laws in place like California.) A fine that effectively ruins the average persons life, for the sake of 20 songs, is a similar injustice, representing cruel and unusual punishment (except in the eyes of Scalia, Thomas, Alito and perhaps Roberts.) In that case it is not, unless it is someone they know or shares ideological precepts with them.)

  2. What if I download a song and do not listen to it? What if a bear farts in the forest and no one hears it? Can either be an offense under law which allows the owner of the song or gas to sue for damages?

    Someone on the blog please tell me how to download some songs so that I can go play them in the forest empty of people, with myself being deaf, with only squirrels, lions, tigers and bears to complain. If the song is on the internet then why does the plaintiff not go take the song off the internet or sue the internet?

  3. BettyKath – Its not just that he downloaded them for personal use, they are pissed he uploaded them for others to download via the peer to peer sharing software.

    Yeah the fines are too high and the RIAA are out of control as they know their days are numbered. Same with the MPAA

    but this guy can just file bankruptcy, from what I understand it will basically emasculate the RIAA judgement and in time he will be good as new without having to pay this usurious penalty

  4. Note, BTW, that Al Franken, “[…]who’s taken $777,383 from PIPA-supporting interest groups, and has co-sponsored the bill since May 2011.”

  5. SOPA and PIPA were the House and Senate versions of recent legislation that would have made the internet totally safe for the music industry (and many others) by making it possible to take down any site based purely on suspicion of copyright infringement.

    More Republican mischief? Errrr, not exactly…

    Here are a couple of paragraphs from a January 19th article on N.Capitalism about support for PIPA,

    Democrats are now the core pillars of support for the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which has not otherwise engendered a strict partisan divide among lawmakers.

    Far and away, the top beneficiary in the Senate from interest groups that support PIPA is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who’s taken in just short of a million dollars from those groups, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. She’s also the most recent Senator to co-sponsor PIPA, adding her name to the list on Dec. 12. The runner-up is Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who’s taken $777,383 from PIPA-supporting interest groups, and has co-sponsored the bill since May 2011.

    In fact, a list of the top 20 beneficiaries of special interest money in favor of PIPA reads like a list of the Senate’s most influential Democrats: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) in third; Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in fourth; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in fifth; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s primary sponsor, in sixth; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in seventh; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in eighth; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in ninth; and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in tenth.

    And here is the link to the article:
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/01/guest-post-democrats-are-the-ones-pushing-web-censorship.html

  6. I was always curious about people who wanted to climb Mount Everest. You just have to walk back down.

  7. @jason

    > DVD recorders are widely available

    Yes they are available at stores but they cost more than a DVD player and are consequently not found in homes that often; my parents are the only people I know who have a DVD recorder, and they only have that because they got an early, expensive machine with a VCR built in. Most people don’t know how to author DVDs, and most DVD players are strictly consumer playback devices.

    > You can have my DVR when you pry it from my dead, remote-control-curled hand

    Yes a DVR can make recordings. How much technical skill and expensive computer equipment is required to make a copy of a video recording for a friend or a relative, compared to dropping a tape into a VCR?

    >Try writing a novel on a smart phone

    I’m sure somebody will do it at some point to prove it can be done, but smart phones are oriented towards consumer behavior. That’s how most people on planet earth get online. The online medium is being reorganized at access points to reinforce consumer behavior at the level of the physical technology, just like the ability to make a new recording was more or less engineered out of existence for DVD players.

  8. Judge Smails: I’ve sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn’t want to do it. I felt I owed it to them.

  9. Sounds like it’s time to file an appeal with the circuit court. Justice is what it is. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve heard the words “good luck” before.

  10. @anon-
    “I think I have heard of occasions when a judge throws out a jury’s guilty verdict — I am not sure what that is called or the justification for that.”

    I thought it was called a “directed verdict”, but after further reading, I think the term you are looking for is “judgment notwithstanding the verdict.” If I’m reading it correctly, a directed verdict occurs prior to the jury making their decision; in essence, the judge “directs” the jury to come back with the verdict he orders. The JNV happens after they’ve given their verdict and can only be for acquittal since the judge isn’t allowed to determine guilt. But Matt’s the legal scholar here, so I defer to him.

  11. Downloading for personal use doesn’t justify the fine. Downloading for commercial use might.

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