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Joel Tenenbaum higher damages reinstated

By | Published on Tuesday 20 September 2011

Joel Tenenbaum

Up then down then up, sometimes I think this case will still be rumbling on even once human civilisation has rejected the very notion of currency-based exchange.

Joel Tenenbaum, possibly America’s most famous file-sharer, or possibly second most after single mum Jammie Thomas, is once again facing the challenge of finding $675,000 to pay the US record industry after an appeals court overturned an earlier judicial ruling which slashed the sum of money the file-sharing student should pay in damages.

As previously reported, Tenenbaum was one of the few file-sharers sued by the Recording Industry Association Of America for file-sharing last decade who let the case go to court. Despite having some very bullish lawyers on his side, he lost somewhat spectacularly and was ordered to pay the record labels $675,000 in damages.

But the judge hearing the case, Nancy Gertner, subsequently reviewed the jury ruling, and decided that damages that high were unconstitutional, resetting the figure at a more modest (for the labels, it would still be arguably more than Tenenbaum could ever raise) $67,500.

However, the RIAA then appealed Gertner’s amendment, and the First Circuit Court Of Appeals have now sided with the trade body, mainly on procedural grounds. The appeal judges said Gertner should have first amended Tenenbaum’s damages under a process called ‘remittitur’ which would have given the record labels the chance to accept or decline, the latter forcing a new trial. To immediately slash the damages payment on constitutional grounds, the appeals court says, did not follow accepted procedure.

The case against the aforementioned Jammie Thomas, which has had rather more chapters than that of Tenenbaum, has already seen a judge reject sky high damages through both remittitur and on constitutional grounds, though that legal dispute is still ongoing too, the RIAA currently appealing the most recent lower damages figure set by a judge. It seems almost certain that the Tenenbaum case will rumble on too, despite Gertner’s attempts to fast track things, and despite the fact the defendant has already said he’ll likely be forced to bankrupt himself if the damages awarded to the record industry run into five figures or more.