In a move that is surely upsetting the Recording Industry Association of America, Judge Nancy Gertner followed in the footsteps of a previous verdict, slashing a $675,000 verdict by a factor of 10, stating over half-million dollars in damages for merely file-sharing a few MP3 files is unconstitutionally excessive.
“Weighing all of these considerations, I conclude that the jury’s award of $675,000 in statutory damages for Tenenbaum’s infringement of thirty copyrighted works is unconstitutionally excessive,” she wrote. “This award is far greater than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interests in compensating copyright owners and deterring infringement. In fact, it bears no meaningful relationship to these objectives. To borrow Chief Judge Michael J. Davis’ characterization of a smaller statutory damages award in an analogous file-sharing case, the award here is simply ‘unprecedented and oppressive.’”
This is the second time a damages award in a P2P file-sharing victory has been minimized by a Judge. Previously, a Minnesota jury awarded the RIAA $1.9 million but Judge Michael Davis reduced the damages to $2250 per song.
It is good to see these trials starting to backfire against the RIAA. They came in with an agenda to make examples of a few people, hoping for huge verdicts which would scare people from using P2P networks to share music. Unfortunately for the RIAA, as we all are quite well aware of, this has not happened – more music is being shared today than ever, while the recording industry continues to generate record-breaking revenue.
File-sharing is hardly hurting the bottom lines of the companies the RIAA represents. In fact, many would argue quite the opposite – that file-sharing is aiding the industry in generating more revenue by allowing people to be exposed to music they otherwise would never have previously considered purchasing. Try before you buy, if you will.
Although the Tenenbaum case was mostly a joke, it is quite nice to see a judge apply some common sense to these verdicts. The amount of damages written in to copyright law is there as a deterrent for people who attempt to profit off illegally selling music. The idea of file-sharing was not a glimmer in anyones eyes and was never taken in to account when the law was written. Is it time for Congress to revisit this clause and update it so it takes modern technology in to account?