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.