It’s a verdict several years in the making. Now, the Supreme court may have put an end to one of two file-sharing cases to have ever made it through the court system without a settlement. Joel Tenenbaum appealed to the Supreme Court in a final move to try and reduce the fine, but the court has said “no”.
In 2009, Joel Tenenbuamn was fined $675,000 for sharing 30 works. Last week, Tenenbaum appealed to the Supreme Court. Through the appeals process, the award was slashed to $67,500. Now the Supreme Courts has made a decision and that decision is to refuse to hear the case without comment, letting the fine stand where it’s now at.
Wired’s Threat Level contains some extensive coverage of the case. Here’s a snippet:
The Obama administration argued in support of the original award, and said the trial judge went too far when addressing the constitutionality of the Copyright Act’s damages provisions. The act allows damages of up to $150,000 a track.
The appeals court agreed with the government, and said the judge should have considered reducing the jury’s verdict under what is known as “remittitur.” That is a little-used power beholden to judges, and they assert it without considering the constitutional basis of the original award.
If any of that sounds familiar, the same thing happened in the nation’s first jury trial against a file sharer, Jammie Thomas-Rasset. That case has morphed into a Groundhog Day of sorts for the same reason. After a third trial in that case, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis of Minnesota slashed a jury award from $1.5 million to $54,000 for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.
So, it sounds to me that, at least as far as the US is concerned, the potential fine for each unauthorized song is $2,250. Since there is so much precedent for this now, I would imagine it would be difficult to really get anything other then that particular amount. What i think is disappointing is knowing that there was some compelling arguments to have the fine further reduced. One argument that comes to my mind was the fact that each song can be sold on iTunes for 99 cents. It’s a little difficult to justify a fine of thousands of dollars with that in mind.
I would further add that you could buy an entire music production studio for less then that. For example, Fruity Loops Studio (software I personally have used to produce music) is currently being sold for as high as under $950. That still leaves over $1,300 to pay for plugins and sample kits (and believe me, depending on how you choose to spend your money, you can really stretch the dollars and buy quite a bit of content for $1,300 (I mean, not going crazy and buying rather expensive content like EastWest for instance). You could easily plan your way through buying all the virtual software used to make that one song in the first place. Whats worse is that you can re-use that stuff to make a second song which would, of course, double the amount of money you could play with. I think this highlights just how extreme these fines are even though they were reduced from an even more absurd level.
Of course, I can accept the argument that this now legally no longer matters in the US and it’s definitely plausible that the record labels have moved away from litigation more these days anyway. Still, just because a court says that a song is worth an astronomical $2,250 doesn’t mean that I will personally agree with it.