July 13, 2010

File Sharing Jury Award Reduced 90%

Sony BMG Music v. Tenenbaum, No. 07 Civ 11446 (D. Mass. memo and order filed July 9, 2010):

This copyright case raises the question of whether the Constitution’s Due Process Clause is violated by a jury’s award of $675,000 in statutory damages against an individual who reaped no pecuniary reward from his infringement and whose individual infringing acts caused the plaintiffs minimal harm. I hold that it is.

Joel Tenenbaum (“Tenenbaum”), the defendant in this action, was accused of using file- sharing software to download and distribute thirty copyrighted songs belonging to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are a group of the country’s biggest recording companies. Their lawsuit against Tenenbaum is one of thousands that they have brought against file sharers throughout the country. Tenenbaum, like many of the defendants in these suits, was an undergraduate when his file- sharing was detected.