Student fined $675,000 for sharing 30 songs

By on August 3, 2009, 12:41 PM
Although it promised not to file any ‘new’ lawsuits against file sharers towards the end of last year, opting to work with ISPs instead, the RIAA also said it has no choice but to move forward with the legal process on previously-filed cases. Most of them are settled early on for between $3,000 and $5,000, but one in particular made it to court recently and ended with a hefty fine of $675,000 for Boston college student Joel Tenenbaum.

Tenenbaum admitted to downloading and distributing music over peer-to-peer networks and was prosecuted and convicted on the basis of 30 shared songs. He received a fine of $22,500 per infringement, beyond the minimum $750 per song charge, but well below the maximum of $150,000 for willful infringement. His lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, plans to appeal the decision and said things might have gone differently at trial had the defense been allowed to argue Fair Use.

This is the second major courtroom victory for the RIAA against an individual file-sharer. In an earlier instance, Jammie Thomas was initially asked to pay 220,000 dollars, but won a retrial, after which a Minnesota jury actually raised the fine to a record $1.92 million for only 24 tracks.




User Comments: 43

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Captain828 Captain828 said:

So if I share a single track I can get fined $150k??!

This makes no sense... a track is as little as $0.5 if not lower. Hell, even it cost $2 it would still be absurd. Or is he paying for all the other people not caught??

Guest said:

when does the 'cruel and unusual' aspect of law come into this equation because right now this just seems ridiculous.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

(shrugs) It's $150k maximum per willful infringement. Obviously ridiculous when I can get songs off of iTunes and Amazon for .89 each. But these laws were designed a long time ago to protect people's products from theft and/or reproduction. And these laws weren't based on "just a song" or "just a movie," it was based on proprietary rights. It's also pretty clear that people outside of the illegal file-sharing community agree with these laws considering the hefty 1.92 million fine increase by a jury in Minnesota.

Phantasm66 Phantasm66 said:

This is a sham. Someone's life is ruined over 30 bloody tunes but there are people walking the streets using knives, fighting and stealing. Society's focus is all wrong, the priorities are all wrong. This person's life is ruined but in Scotland they are only jailing the most persistent and violent of offenders. Certain people do the most horrible things again and again and again and escape punishment.

Guest said:

People know the risks. They know that it is theft, against the law, and illegal. Yet, they keep on doing it. I don't have any mercy for these people. They did wrong and they have to pay for it.

It would like someone shooting someone and then asking that they don't get thrown in jail. Sorry, it doesn't work like that. You did the crime, now you have to pay for it.

Guest said:

This can ONLY happen in the US. The country where everybody is sueing everybody for anything and everything. Stupid country.

I'm against piracy, but this is way out of proportions.

guyver1 said:

And once again the Artists who wrote those songs wont see a damn penny....

The System has failed.

Guest said:

Well, it's obvious that the RIAA wants the money, because if they really wanted to stop the downloading of music they would have to shut down one source at a time.

Guest said:

you must have enough money to buy everything so its not a problem for you.

Guest said:

you must have enough money to buy everything so its not a problem for you. pardon for the mistake.

Brewskie said:

Unconsitution Fines

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Eight Amendment to the US Constitution.

And I don't want to hear about this being civil. The Constitution makes no reference to whether it only applies to criminal proceedings.

Twister123 Twister123 said:

yea , the punishment must fit the crime , isn't that enshrined somewhere or a rule of thumb of some kind , that story even made it over here , but it was one of those end of the news bit size stories , the reporter joked "he won't be doing that again" , surely he can appeal to someone , and water gets poisoned in india , thousands dye and no proceedings of any kind ,

DarkCobra DarkCobra said:

Indeed this is absurd as the punishment has to fit the crime. When an artist &/or record company establishes the value of a given piece of intellectual property (in this case a single song at .99 cents on most authorized purchase sites) then this same artist/record company cannot and should not be allowed to suddenly drastically change that value by claiming the value of that "SAME" intellectual property should now be over 100 thousand dollars per song when somebody makes a copy for themselves (which is a simple theft).

Such a notion doesn't even pass the laugh test! Let's say I steal the entire CD of that same intellectual property from a store which let's say sells for $20 tops. I then get caught. At best it would be a simple petty theft misdemeanor and I would probably pay a small fine &/or do some weekend community service or something. However, the value of the stolen CD would never be suddenly revalued in court as being worth 100 thousand dollars! On appeal to higher more intelligent court this will no doubt be drastically reduced.

Twister123 Twister123 said:

I remember cassette tapes , getting my first double cassette tape player , I must owe someone a fortune , I hope they don't reopen any cold cases , or 99% of the tape deck generation are off to jail .

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

ok Twister...now this is draconian!

Twister123 Twister123 said:

I think your right red , thats a good way of putting it , imagine everybody who copied or shared something , music , video , whatever was tried , prosecuted and fined , we would have more criminals than non-criminals on the planet.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

The RIAA must have had Monika Lewinsky, under this Judge's robe.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

The RIAA must have had Monika Lewinsky, under this Judge's robe.

my cartoon bubble just had a certain scene from a 'Police Academy' movie

Twister123 Twister123 said:

he actually got off not to badly , I know that sounds nuts but he was fined 22,500 per infringement , the maximum is 150,000 , did u read the bit about the guy who managed to get a retrial ,holy s##t ....,

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

he actually got off not to badly , I know that sounds nuts but he was fined 22,500 per infringement , the maximum is 150,000 , did u read the bit about the guy who managed to get a retrial ,holy s##t ....,
The Fed can't fine you money you don't have. In this case, the best attorney might have been a Federal Defender. Federal maximum fines are set ridiculously high in the first place. It would be interesting to know the back story of this case. Because prima facia, it seems like our defendant really pissed somebody off big time.

The defendant was fined for "30" songs, but that just might have been all they chose to prosecute. Face it, all Al Capone went down for was income tax evasion.

There's sort of a moral here, the internet is a very public place. It's being monitored in real time for child pornography, people in my general area were just busted for it.The Assistant US Attorney said, we can monitor your downloads in real time, we have new technologly. Was the a psych job, just bluster? Maybe, maybe not. But, I think the Fed is casting a wider net than anyone suspects.

The same web crawlers can be used by the forces of good or evil.

One man bragged the he could rip "10,000 songs off the net in one night". For my part, I think sharing is something that is best done on a personal level, with friends, and in tasteful amounts.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

I did not see that one....but i have to believe that this wont stand in an appeal....or maybe its just hope. This is some seriously orwellian stuff.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I did not see that one....but i have to believe that this wont stand in an appeal....or maybe its just hope. This is some seriously orwellian stuff.

Isn't this the way tyranny is always supported? You, take somebody out into the town square, and hang them for next to no reason. The rest of the sheep bleat a bit of objection , then skulk home in abject fear.

What I can't seem to fathom, is why nobody for a minute thinks that the FBI has accounts on "Lime Wire". My guess is multiple accounts. Meh, I'm probably just paranoid.

Twister123 Twister123 said:

I'd say his lawyer was one of the best daddy's money could buy, he's a harvard law professor, so I'm sure the fine will be met, I doubt he pissed anyone off , its like the drug laws , drugs will never be stamped out and neither will piracy , so all that can be done is inflict excessive punishment , in the hope people will stop doing it , they don't try address the reasons behind it

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I'd say his lawyer was one of the best daddy's money could buy, he's a harvard law professor, so I'm sure the fine will be met, I doubt he pissed anyone off , its like the drug laws , drugs will never be stamped out and neither will piracy , so all that can be done is inflict excessive punishment , in the hope people will stop doing it , they don't try address the reasons behind it

No, this quote from the article says exactly what I suspected, "Tenenbaum admitted to downloading and distributing music over peer-to-peer networks and was prosecuted and convicted on the basis of 30 shared songs." They only prosecuted for thirty songs, then enhanced the fine upward. And a Harvard law professor should have known that "fair use" wouldn't fly! So, yeah, they were pissed off at him. Fair use, would work on a CD you copied to back up, but not bloody likely on and open drive containing copyrighted material.

Twister123 Twister123 said:

interesting edit , captcrank , so if its done on a small level , or for personal use , they probaly won't come after you , maybe they broke up a cinema camcorder ring they were tracking for a few years , sounds crazy but u never know , so are businesses who loss money able to direct our resources away from solving more serious crime , amazing !

DALITTLEGUY98 said:

trust the US to lie about only $500 fine. if it was true why did this kid get a $675000 fine? the us is full of bullshit thats why i live in Australia

Twister123 Twister123 said:

the whole industry is over inflated , it gives rise to piracy, they charge to much for a bunch of songs , most artists don't make music for money alone the way the record companies do , but after they spend money on an image , make a deal that our rapper will only wear nike sneakers , they want a big return,

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

trust the US to lie about only $500 fine. if it was true why did this kid get a $675000 fine? the us is full of bullshit thats why i live in Australia

yeah, cuz the australian government would never do anything so intrusive....geezus

[link]

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

interesting edit , captcrank , so if its done on a small level , or for personal use , they probaly won't come after you , maybe they broke up a cinema camcorder ring they were tracking for a few years , sounds crazy but u never know , so are businesses who loss money able to direct our resources away from solving more serious crime , amazing !
As I tried to explain earlier swapping music on the internet is stealing in full public view. One might speculate, that there's a vicious circle in play here. To wit, if they're that stupid and blatant, (the sharers), we're going to punish them for it.(The RIAA).

That fact that this kid's lawyer is a Harvard Law Professor, doesn't really impress me. First of all academic types many times are a bit too liberal thinking, and they're also pretty cloistered. As I said earlier, he would have been better off with a Federal Defender, they know the judges, they know the probation department, and in general, they're in a better position to wheel and deal on a defendant's behalf. As near as I can tell they made an example out of the "prof" in the process. Here's how not to be taken seriously, claim that it's really "fair use". "Fair use" is making yourself a backup, one copy.

This generation seems to be comprised almost exclusively of sociopaths. From what I can gather, people think they're entitled to share, keep, or steal whatever type of intellectual property they come across, and the worst part, blatantly, and in full public view.

Now, try and wrap your head around this. Just because the original artist may have in fact have a claim against the RIAA for not forwarding their royalties, that doesn't mean the any third party in entitled to steal the material. It still belongs to the original owner, and by extension the RIAA, the agent for enforcement of copyright.

Well, the RIAA didn't give the royalties to the artist, so that means I can make as many copies as I want because the RIAA is stealing from the artist. OK, I hope that sounds as stupid to you as it does to me. Not only that, but if I read that statement over and over, I don;t think I can brainwash myself into believing it.

I sincerely wish that anybody involved in the pro-unfettered sharing of other peoples property, would develop some intellectual property of their own. because then, I haven't got a shred of doubt, that they'd be preaching a different sermon!

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I've done the file sharing thing, and frankly this is as much scary as this "." is on a 9 by 9 meter piece of paper. I do think its obsessive, but even so, just imagine if they caught all 20 million of us. lol. Barack Obama couldnt even save that kind of deficit.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I've done the file sharing thing, and frankly this is as much scary as this "." is on a 9 by 9 meter piece of paper. I do think its obsessive, but even so, just imagine if they caught all 20 million of us. lol. Barack Obama couldnt even save that kind of deficit.
Yeah, and he gets to say when the money's printed.

File sharing on the internet is sorta like s***ing on you neighbor's front lawn while a parade is coming down the street.

it's just the kind of thing that people are looking to come down on.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

anyone know how they actually go about picking a target? and setup their 'sting' operation im assuming were not talking abscam here.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

Just from what I've been looking at its through ISP's. Comcast isnt on that list, along with Rogers Network(Canada), also At&T. Passed that I'm not sure who they contact to get their info.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

If I were the FBI, I'd enroll one of my younger agents in computer science and a frat in the local college. Open up accounts in Lime wire and elsewhere. And run plenty of web crawlers. You can get them (I think) as freeware. I saw one at "Softpedia" I think. "Find out if your software is on the web", was the sales pitch. Christ, just go to, "isohunt.com". and work from there.

Think about Macafee's "Site Adviser". It has to track your every move, to tell you which sites are good or bad. So, basically there's a tool that knows, "who's been naughty" and "who's been nice".

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

I guess what im getting at is where is the privacy, or invasion thereof argument come down?

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

I agree, but if isp's are worried about business being compromised they wont give information, that imo was the biggest drawback in the issue arrising years ago when supposedly isp's were going to supply the information to "catch" the offenders. If you can only fine 150k per item confirms and admitted, how does that compare to losing 50k customers over a 5 year period. Not much.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I guess what im getting at is where is the privacy, or invasion thereof argument come down?

If you believe the Bush administration's telling, or rather non telling of it, at moot point. In any event in any legal venue, the only privacy issue that >> might <<prevail, is illegal search and seizure. But, since the internet for all intents is a public venue, and copyright violation and or theft of goods and services, rises to the level of a felony, an individual or a group is not entitled to invoking a privacy claim during the commission of said felony. In fact. I'm actually wondering why the don't tack conspiracy on more than they do. But that's probably because the FBI doesn't like the RIAA thinking that it's the RIAA's trained attack dog!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I agree, but if isp's are worried about business being compromised they wont give information, that imo was the biggest drawback in the issue arrising years ago when supposedly isp's were going to supply the information to "catch" the offenders. If you can only fine 150k per item confirms and admitted, how does that compare to losing 50k customers over a 5 year period. Not much.

Idealism is fine in it's place and purpose. But since when do you need an ISP's permission to install Limewire software. The only reason that they were bullying the ISPs is so they could have the information handed to them on a silver platter, with minimal effort on their part. They're just flat out, too f***ing lazy, to do their own police work. This unauthorized and unreasonable search and seizure is in national security interests, now loosen up your trousers. So, that when we are "looking for terrorists", and then we "stumble upon" copyright violators, this is a public place. There's no expectation of privacy, and the evidentiary rules of no search warrant being needed for, "articles found in plain sight", attaches! Or at least can be molded to apply.

Twister123 Twister123 said:

I notice in my town dvd players with divx built in , how does that happen , isn't divx probaly the most common format for pirated material , and now dvd makers are enabling pirated material to be viewed more easy.

davidm71 said:

I heard he was doing a lot of file sharing and the university warned him several times and he didn't pay any attention. I bet he'll get the fine reduced somewhat on appeal but its over for him. I don't think he is guilty of any crime personally unless he was the one also doing the ripping of tracks from a CD, or was breaking the DRM security on each track. Like if a plane carrying money explodes over your house and you put out a net and grab some of the cash does that make you a thief?

This is ridiculous. Ruining this kids life serves no purpose except act as a warning to everyone else to either stop or cover your tracks. Makes you want to learn how to protect your PC from the RIAA and use a proxy service. Thats whats going to happen. Its all going to go underground and the music industry losses will probably double!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I notice in my town dvd players with divx built in , how does that happen , isn't divx probaly the most common format for pirated material , and now dvd makers are enabling pirated material to be viewed more easy.
"Guns don't kill, people kill"! Simply because something exists doesn't necessarily mean that it will be used to nefarious intent. Divx is becoming popular as a download format for legal downloads as well. This because downloading in DVD-Video format is at best, "inconvenient". Even with fast broadband, files that may be as much 8.5GB in size eat intio bandwidth, are time consuming, and last but not least, the ISPs are using such large file transfers as an excuse to either cap bandwidth, or charge extra for it. Now, let's talk about trying to download Blu-Ray files.

It took the longest time and a contentious legal struggle to allow VCRs to exist. And that argument revolved around "fair use". Especially with respect to broad cast TV, advertisers cryed "foul", since it was assumed the evil doers taping programs would FF through the commercials. The "fair use" doctrine prevailed that time, but it was still illegal to copy tape and distribute copies, piracy then, and piracy now. A copy of a prerecorded VCR tape of of low, almost unwatchable quality, but with modern digital means, copies can be made that for all intents and purposes, cannot be distinguished from the source.

Sony BMG is by far one of the most aggressive and proprietary with respect to attaching DRM and pursuing legal action against pirates. So, they. still make recordable drives because they can make money selling them. Are they hypocrites? Yes! Does that work to your advantage? Yes! Don't look a gift horse in the mouth!

I heard he was doing a lot of file sharing and the university warned him several times and he didn't pay any attention. I bet he'll get the fine reduced somewhat on appeal but its over for him. I don't think he is guilty of any crime personally unless he was the one also doing the ripping of tracks from a CD, or was breaking the DRM security on each track. Like if a plane carrying money explodes over your house and you put out a net and grab some of the cash does that make you a thief?
Since I'm tired of typing, in a word, "yes"!

But I would add, that of course you don't think it's a crime. You think it's a crime that people have the nerve to charge you for music. You're entitled to it, aren't you now!

Twister123 Twister123 said:

I see divx files are smaller , but like the trouble with video recorders , I'd say there was huge dispute ,

ps . try typing with a joypad in cell phone layout !

Guest said:

Thats just.. wow.

I can understand charging them a bit of money, but that much!? Thats way over the line. I think the appeal will turn things around and likely get him out of deep sh**.

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