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Joel Tenenbaum, who was found liable for copyright infringement for sharing 30 songs online, is asking an appeals court to consider the constitutionality of big damage awards in copyright cases.
In a brief to the First Circuit Court of Appeals filed on December 27, Tenenbaum argues there are “systemic problems that produce unconscionable awards” in copyright cases against accused file-sharers.
In July 2009, Tenenbaum was ordered to pay $675,000 to several record companies for infringing their songs. The following July, the award was trimmed to $67,500.
But that’s not low enough, according to Tenenbaum’s attorney, Charles Nesson, a law professor at Harvard.
“This case presents a gross distortion of the traditional understanding of copyright law,” writes Nesson in his brief. “The damages are so disproportionate to the offense because the statute was never meant to apply to not-for-profit individual consumers like Tenenbaum. Statutory damages exist to solve provlems of proving significant harms difficult to quantify — not to authorize in terrorem punishment for ‘venial offensders’ like Tenenbaum.”
The case is the first filesharing one to reach a federal court of appeals following trial.
In their own papers submitted in October, the record label plaintiffs are seeking to reinstate the original $675,000 award.
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