RIAA, Tenenbaum file-sharing case back in the limelight

Joel Tenenbaum seemingly made an enemy for life of the music industry in 2007 when he became the lone defendant in a piracy case which saw five of the world’s largest record labels demanding compensation.

In 2009 after Judge Nancy Gertner found Tenenbaum guilty of copyright infringement, a jury settled on a sizable damages figure for the Massachusetts man: $675,000 — or $22,500 for each of the 31 songs Tenenbaum downloaded. A year later, the same judge overruled the hefty punishment, calling it “unconstitutionally excessive.” Instead, Tenenbaum was ordered to pay $67,500, or $2,250 a song.

The case is now back in court as Tenenbaum appeals for an even lesser figure to pay.

Three judges heard both sides of the case in Boston yesterday to determine just how much Tenenbaum should pay for his crime.

RIAA, Tenenbaum file-sharing case back in the limelight

In lieu of $67,500, Tenenbaum’s lawyers believe he should only pay $30. Considering how much singles on legit music services like iTunes go for these days, if the defendant’s offer is approved by the First Circuit Court of Appeals Tenenbaum will literally get off for the price of a song — or, in this case, around 30 of them. A point not lost on Tenenbaum, apparently.

Speaking to the Boston Herald, Tenenbaum claims $67,500, though much less than the original figure, remains excessive. “These damages are still absurd,” he said. “When you consider that you can buy these songs for 99 cents each on iTunes, anything along those lines would seem a lot more in touch with reality. If the court wants to award damages for a punitive effect, how about 30 songs times $3.”

The lawyer for the plaintiffs point to Tenenbaum’s “willful conduct” as fair justification for a high damages figure, noting that despite advice to the contrary the defendant continued to engage in illicit activities. Almost comically, one of the judges admits he doesn’t quite understand how the particular type of infringement even works – which precludes a humorous explanation on peer-to-peer technology. The 45-minutes-long hearing is available at the court’s website here.

A ruling by the court has yet to be delivered.