Judge in Tenenbaum Case to Jury – Defedant Guilty, Pick a Fine

The judge in the Tenenbaum case has handed the jury instructions now. It’s those instructions that are, at the very least, raising eyebrows in the legal community. the instructions basically told the jury that the defendant in the case was guilty and that it was up to the jury to basically pick a number between 750 and 30,000 and that’ll be the fine per act of infringement (not per infringing item).

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

In court documents (PDF – Via Ray Beckerman), the judge in the Sony vs Tenenbaum case issued instructions to the jury.

“In this case,” the judge wrote, “each plaintiff contends that it is, and at all relevant times has been, the
copyright owner or licensee of exclusive rights under United States copyright law with respect to certain copyrighted sound recordings, and that the defendant, Joel Tenenbaum, without the permission or consent of such plaintiff, used a peer-to-peer network to download the plaintiffs’ copyrighted recordings and/or distribute the copyrighted recordings to the public.”

The judge said that the plaintiff had to prove that they owned the works and that the defendant infringed on that work.

“In this case,” the judge concludes, “there is no issue as to liability.”

“Because there is no issue as to liability,” the judge adds, “you must decide on damages. When you do, you
must select a damages award within the specified statutory range.”

The judge clarified only that the statutory range is between $750 to $30,000 “per act of infringement”.

From an outsiders perspective, this is a rather shocking instruction. Perhaps Hollywood has clouded what goes on in the American court system where people mistakenly believe that a jury had the power to decide whether or not the defendant was guilty of something or not. Apparently, in an actual American court, the jury’s roll is to watch the case, pick a number and go home. In order for this to happen, the plaintiffs have to be part of the RIAA or MPAA and simply show up, and claim their millions – if the MPAAs comments about needing evidence is anything to go by. The defendant’s roll is to sit there and receive an automatic guilty verdict. At least, this is what one can learn in this case. And you thought only the Swedish justice system handling the Pirate Bay case seemed insane.

It’s hard not to mention the justice scene in Idiocracy where the plaintiff won the case simply by saying that they have a whole bunch of, pfft, evidence, and that the court should say that the defendant is guilty. It truly appears that a similar thing has happened in this case.

Already, many have condemned the Jammie Thomas fine of $1.92 million including many during Canada’s critical copyright consultation. Perhaps at this stage, one could add how someone could be guilty of online copyright infringement simply because the industry said so as well in an American style copyright law.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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