Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not So Fast

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about what I perceived to be a turning in the tide of the RIAA’s litigation against file sharers. I was probably a bit naive in my thinking. While the RIAA may have changed its strategy, the cases that it filed originally continue to evolve through the court system. Most recently, in the case of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, et. al. v. Tenenbaum, the U.S. Court of appeals reinstated the jury verdict of $675,000 against graduate student Tenenbaum, who had admitted to downloading 31 songs from Kaaza. The trial judge had reduced the statutory damages awarded against Tenenbaum to $67,500 (that’s still $2,177.41 a song) on constitutional grounds. Apparently the Appeals Court ruled that the issue of constitutionality was premature. Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Charles Nesson had convinced the District Court Judge that the high statutory damages provided by the Copyright Act violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. There may yet be some viability to that argument. However, liability in this case and others like it remains a slam dunk.

The moral to all of this is that despite the fact that suing single mothers and college students is not the way for the music industry to win the hearts and minds of the public and stop illegal downloading and file sharing, it is still illegal, and potentially expensive.

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