An appeals court has reinstated the $675,000 award against file-sharer Joel Tenenbaum, reversing the decision of a lower-court judge to reduce the penalty on constitutional grounds.
In the case of Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, the defendant was found guilty of downloading and distributing 30 songs. In July 2009, a jury awarded Sony BMG $675,000 in damages, or $22,500 per song. The statutory range established by Congress is $750 to $150,000 per infringement.
But in July 2010, Judge Nancy Gertner ruled the damages were so large they violated Tenenbaum's due process rights. Calling the amount of damages "unprecedented and oppressive," she reduced the award by a factor of ten to $67,500, or $2,250 per song.
In its decision released Friday, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the reduction in damages and ruled that Judge Gertner had erred when she reduced the jury award on due process grounds. Instead, the court believed Judge Gertner should have used a legal procedure called a remittitur, which reduces the amount of a jury award and gives the plaintiff the choice of accepting the reduced award or submitting to a new trial.
The RIAA's statement come from the Twitter account of Jonathan Lamy, SVP Communications: "We're pls'ed the crt agreed that the finding of liability was correct and that the d crt erred in finding the verdict unconst."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a brief urging the First Circuit to affirm Judge Gertner's ruling, called the reversal "disappointing."