Posts Tagged: law student

Judge Slashes Judgment in Illegal Music Downloading Case

Many of you out there download your favorite music through illegal file sharing. No big deal, right? Aside from music labels and artists complaining about the loss of revenue resulting from file sharing, we rarely think of illegal downloading as a punishable crime. Enter Joel Tenenbaum, the grad student who was found guilty in 2009 of downloading 30 (yes, that’s right, 30!) songs and who was fined over a half a million dollars for doing it. Sounds hard to believe, right? Luckily for Tenenbaum, last week, a federal judge found it hard to believe too, throwing out the judgment for being too severe.

Under the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999, people are subject to huge statutory damages for violating copyright law through illegal file sharing. As reported by, a US District Court Judge ruled that the letter of the law was stretched too thin when the jury imposed a fine of $675,000 under the Act. Holding this penalty as “unconstitutionally excessive,” the judge reduced the fine to $67,500. Now, the Recording Industry Association of America will likely contest this decision for “substituting [the] judgment of 10 jurors as well as Congress.”

Whether the reduction is contested or not, Tenenbaum says he is unable to afford even the reduced penalty. Regardless of the outcome in this particular case, Congress may want to reconsider the language of the statute that can put a young graduate student into deep debt simply for downloading an album worth of songs.

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