Judge: $675,000 Music Piracy Verdict Is Cause for Concern

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A federal judge in Boston today formally signed off on a $675,000 fine that a jury assessed against Boston University doctoral student Joel Tenenbaum for illegally sharing 30 copyrighted songs.

But in an unusual decision, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner expressed "very,very" deep concerns at the "astronomical penalties" available to music companies under copyright laws. Gertner said the court would have been willing to consider Tenenbaum's fair use defense in the case but concluded that the manner in which the arguments were presented by the defense counsel made it all but impossible for her to do so.

"Rather than tailoring his fair use defense to suggest a modest exception to copyright protections, Tenenbaum's defense mounted a broadside attack that would excuse all file sharing for private enjoyment," the judge wrote in a 38-page decision. Such a broad definition of fair use would "swallow" all copyright protections, Gertner said.

Her ruling means Tenenbaum will be required to pay $112,500 to Sony BMG Music Entertainment for five songs, another $250,000 to Warner Bros. Records Inc. for sharing 10 songs, $45,000 to Arista Records for two songs and $292,500 to UMG Recordings, Inc. for 13 sound recordings.

A hearing on the constitutionality of the size of the damages awarded in the case is scheduled for Jan 5. Tenebaum has previously stated that he would be forced to declare bankruptcy if he is required to pay the fine .

(More to come)

This story, "Judge: $675,000 Music Piracy Verdict Is Cause for Concern" was originally published by Computerworld.

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