The Music Is Over, But The Litigation Lingers On

Submitted by patentadmin on Wed, 03/17/2010 - 11:27

Some time ago, we wrote of the fascinating case of Capitol Records Inc. v. Thomas-Rasset, where a jury found the defendant guilty of illegally downloading twenty-four (24) songs and assessed damages of $222K. On appeal, Thomas-Rasset was awarded a new trial. The second jury again found her guilty, awarding $80K per song, or $1.92M (yup, almost two million bucks) in damages. Then, late in January, the Chief Judge described the second verdict as “monstrous and shocking” and ordered it reduced to $54K. The plaintiffs rejected this amount and the case is now scheduled for a third trial.

The foregoing synopsis is presented as background to the more recent cases – yes folks, TWO CASES – alleging similar nefarious conduct by one Joel Tenenbaum: Sony BMG Music v. Tenenbaum and Capitol Records v. Alaujan (Tenenbaum is a co-defendant with Alaujan.)

In the Capitol Records case, a jury found Tenenbaum guilty of illegally downloading 30 songs and assessed damages of $675K (for those readers lacking ready access to a calculator, that’s $22.5K per song). In post-trial motions, his attorney – a Harvard Law School professor – argued that the proper amount of damages was only about $21 (yes, twenty-one dollars) and that the jury’s verdict was so excessive as to be unconstitutional. (Law professors ALWAYS argue constitutionality.) In response, the judge noted that there was a legal question as to whether the professor had properly preserved the right to challenge the instructions given to the jury. Meanwhile, raising a constitutional challenge caused the government to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of the Copyright Act.

THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: Save yourself untold grief and expense and pay the 99 cents per song to download music from iTunes.

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