US file-sharer gets $700,000 fine
Saturday, 1 August 2009 02:54 UK
A US student has been ordered to pay $675,000 (£404,000) to four record labels for breaking copyright laws after sharing music online.
The Boston University student, Joel Tenenbaum, had admitted in court that he had downloaded and distributed 30 songs at issue in the case.
It is the second such case to go to trial in the US.
In the first case, a woman in Minneapolis was ordered to pay $1.92m for sharing 24 songs.
On Friday, the jury ordered Mr Tenebaum to pay $22,500 for each infringement. The maximum that he could have been fined was $4.5m.
Following the ruling, he said he was glad the fine had not been in the millions.
"That to me sends a message of 'We considered your side with some legitimacy'," he said, according to the Associated Press news agency.
But his lawyer said the verdict was not fair and that he planned to appeal.
Mr Tenenbaum used a computer at his parents' home and at his college to download and distribute digital files. Prosecutors working on behalf of the record labels focused on 30 shared songs. Under US law, the recording companies are entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement. However, the jury can raise the amount to $150,000 per track if it finds the infringements were willful - a matter that they will debate now that the judge has ruled Mr Tenenbaum violated copyright laws. In the Minnesota case, the jury awarded $80,000 per song.
On the stand, Mr Tenenbaum admitted that he had downloaded more than 800 songs since 1999 and that he had lied in pre-trial proceedings when he suggested that other family members of friends may have been responsible for downloading songs to his computer. "I used the computer. I uploaded, I downloaded music," he told the court under questioning from his own lawyer, Charles Nesson. He said he had used Napster and then Kazaa to download the files. "It was like this giant library in front of you," he said. In opening remarks on Tuesday, Mr Tenenbaum's lawyer said he "was a kid who did what kids do and loved technology and loved music". Recording companies had been slow to adapt to the internet, he added. But prosecutors argued that file-sharers take a significant toll on the revenues for artists and others involved in music
'Got off easy'
The recording industry has recently changed its tactics in file-sharing cases, preferring to settle quickly for much smaller amounts. However, cases such as those against Mr Tenenbaum, which were already filed, are proceeding to trial. The four recording labels involved in the case are subsidiaries of Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony. Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe said Mr Tenenbaum had "got off easy" compared to the Minnesota case. "I went through the song list of what he was actually convicted of downloading and my favourite one was Beck's Loser," he told BBC News.
Source: US file-sharer gets $700,000 fine