Appeals Court Ruling Could Affect Statutory Damages For Copyright Infringement

In 2009, a federal jury in Boston ordered Joel Tenenbaum to pay the major labels $675,000 in damages for copyright infringement after he admitted to downloading and sharing songs through peer-to-peer site Kazaa. But last July, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner slashed the award by 90% on a post-trial motion. Her decision was unprecedented-the first ever to declare an award of copyright statutory damages unconstitutionally excessive. The labels' appeal of Gertner's decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals will determine whether juries may, as Congress provided, award up to $150,000 per work infringed, or whether copyright owners seeking statutory damages will routinely face tough constitutional arguments that will complicate and increase the cost of much copyright litigation.