Judge (Sort of) Realizes Absurdity in Slapping Music-Sharing Students with Huge Fines

Categories: Tech
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Francesco Marino / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Strike one up for common sense -- and another one down for the Recording Industry Association of America.

Earlier today, a federal judge cut the penalty against convicted music file-sharer Joel Tenenbaum by a factor of 10 -- from $675,000 to $67,500 -- after ruling that the original, jury-awarded amount was "unconstitutionally excessive."

Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate student, was found guilty of downloading and sharing songs online from 1999 to 2007, according to the Associated Press.

This is the second time a file-sharing case had damages drastically cut by a judge. Earlier this year, a ruling in Minnesota reduced a file-sharer's liability from $1.9 million per song shared to $2,250.

Tenenbaum, the file-sharer, was, as you can imagine, quite pleased to have the damages reduced today. Ars Technica got a response from the RIAA, which doesn't sound so pleased in this statement:

 The judge ... erroneously dismisses the profound economic and artistic harm caused when hundreds of songs are illegally distributed for free to millions of strangers on file-sharing networks.

Keep in mind, this grad student still has to pay an absurd $67,500 for sharing music online. That's something a lot of music fans do multiple times every day. Even the judge in this case noted that the RIAA's strategy is to soak file sharers with the stiffest penalties possible as a deterrent to what is now a common practice online.

Musicians and labels need a way to make a living from their work, and there are serious economic and artistic consequences to the free-for-all of online file-sharing. But instead of inventing a business model that will work with today's technology, the RIAA would rather twist the law to slap students like Tenenbaum with huge penalties. Thankfully, at least one judge saw today how abusive this is -- although she could've cut the fine by a lot more.

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