Students lead in Tenenbaum appeal

May 2011


As Jammie Rasset Thomas faces yet another trial, the Joel Tenenbaum case has now gone to appeal.By way of background, a federal jury awarded the Recording Industry Association of America, $675,000 under copyright laws and the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999, which allowed for penalties as high as $4.5 million -or $150,000 for each song illegally and willfully downloaded and shared online. The laws required that jurors award at least $750 for each infringement. Last year, US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner slashed the award by 90 percent to $67,500, to $2,250 a song, saying the jury’s decision was “unconstitutionally excessive’ and that $67,500 would still serve to deter similar actions, she said.

27 year old Jason Harrow, a student at Harvard Law School and winner of the school’s 100th annual Ames Moot Court Competition, judged by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Harrow argued that Congress never intended to punish individual consumers when passing a copyright bill more than a decade ago saying “No one thought the statue would apply to consumer users like this’’ Another of Tenenbaum’s lawyers, University professor Charles Nesson — argued yesterday that the federal copyright laws and the Digital Theft Deterrence Act were never meant to target consumers and that, even if they were, such extreme punishment would be unconstitutional. Nesson described Tenenbaum’s knowingly downloading songs to the act of “a willful jaywalker.’’

However lawyers representing the Recording Industry Association of America argued yesterday that Congress was aware that consumers could be targeted under the deterrence act and that the penalties were set high because of the seriousness of the misconduct. Paul Clement, a former US Solicitor general, said the economic impact of illegally downloading is far greater than the sharing of one song saying “It’s really the complete undermining of the copyright,’’ representing the industry group. He argued that Tenenbaum was warned of the copyright infringement, but continued downloading songs. “He migrated from one file sharer to another after they were shut down for copyright infringement.’’ Clement also argued that a district court judge should not have altered a jury’s decision.–+Local+news  and

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