Judge says penalty unconstitutional in music piracy case

Judge Nancy Gertner said that although she agreed with the guilty verdict against PhD Student Joel Tenenbaum, the idea of paying $675,000 just for sharing music was way too excessive.

Joel Tenenbaum was the second person to actually go to court over charges of copyright infringement. Unlike most people who settle for a relatively small amount, Tenenbaum fought the case, and lost.

Tenenbaum was accused of, and admitted to, illegally downloading and sharing “hundreds of songs,” according to Reuters, between 1999 and 2007. But Gertner said an award of $675,000 was just too much.

“This award is far greater than necessary to serve the government’s legitimate interests in compensating copyright owners and deterring infringement,” wrote Gertner in her decision.

The precedent had already been set after Jammie Thomas was sued by multiple record companies. Her groundbreaking case answered the question as to whether or not people who share copyrighted songs on services like Kazaa are actually breaking the law. The answer was yes. The jury found Thomas guilty and found her liable for nearly $2 million in damages. That was later reduced to $54,000.