June 26, 2013

1st Cir Affirms $675,000 Jury Award For Unauthorized Downloads/Distributions

Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, No. Case: 12-2146 (1st Cir. filed 6/25/2013) [Doc. 00116547502].

From the decision:
Joel Tenenbaum illegally downloaded and distributed music for several years. A group of recording companies sued Tenenbaum, and a jury awarded damages of $675,000, representing $22,500 for each of thirty songs whose copyright Tenenbaum violated. Tenenbaum appeals the award, claiming that it is so large that it violates his constitutional right to due process of law. We hold that the award did not violate Tenenbaum's right to due process, and we affirm.
The two issues on appeal were: (1) what is the correct standard for evaluating the constitutionality of an award of statutory damages under the Copyright Act; and (2) did an award of $675,000 violate defendant's right to due process?  On issue one, the Court held that the correct standard was that announced in St. Louis, I.M. & S.Ry. Co. v. Williams, 251 U.S. 63 (1919), that a statutory damage award violates due process only "where the penalty prescribed is so severe and oppressive as to be wholly disproportionate to the offense and obviously unreasonable."  On issue two, the Court found that the award did not violate defendant's due process rights.