A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit heard oral argument yesterday in Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the cases brought by the recording industry against Boston University grad student Joel Tenenbaum. Tenebaum is appealing the judgment against him for downloading 30 songs.
Concluding that the jury's damage award of $675,000 was so "unprecedented and oppressive" that it could not withstand scrutiny under the Due Process Clause of the U. S. Constitution, the trial judge, District Judge Nancy Gertner, had reduced the award to $67,500, an amount she described as still "severe, even harsh."
On appeal, Tenenbaum argues, among other things, that the award remains unconstitutionally excessive and that the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999, which provided the basis for an increased range of statutory damages for copyright infringement (see 17 U.S.C. Sec. 504(c)), was not intended to apply to individual, non-commercial consumers.
The music companies appeal Judge Gertner's reduction of the award.
You can listen to an audio recording of the oral arguments here.
Tenenbaum is represented by a team of lawyers and law students led by Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, and on Monday HLS 3L Jason Harrow argued on behalf of Tenenbaum. A Web site, Joel Fights Back, is dedicated to the cause.
This is only the second case to go to trial against an individual accused of unlawful music dowloading/sharing.
In 2008 the music industry decided to no longer pursue individuals for allegedly unlawful music downloading or sharing (as reported in this Wall Street Journal article), but that it would continue with suits already in progress.