RIAA Cries Foul Over Tenenbaum Fine Reduction

It may be the least surprising reaction of the year, but the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has said that they would contest the ruling that saw the reduction of the Tenenbaum fine from $675,000 to $67,500. The organization said that it would contest the ruling, but exactly how remains to be seen at this point.

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

Just before the weekend last week, we reported that a judge has declared the $675,000 judgment against Joel Tenenbaum unconstitutional. As a result, the judge slashed the fine to one tenth of the original fine to $67,500. The fine works out to $2,250 per work which is the same amount as the Jammie Thomas case where a judge lowered her fine down to $2,250 per work.

The original verdicts in both cases may have earned a black eye for now only the US legal system nationally, but internationally as well. To name one example, during last years copyright consultation in Canada, the Jammie Thomas case was cited as an example of how not to enforce copyright laws. As a result, trying to make penalties for copyright violations in Canada as high as the United States became an incredibly tough sell and may have contributed to the creation of a provision in the current Canadian copyright reform law that spells out the difference in fines between commercial and non-commercial infringement. No doubt the initial judgments caused other countries to take a step back as they re-evaluated their copyright laws and re-think fines as well.

Undeterred, the RIAA has issued a statement regarding the judgment, saying that it would “contest this ruling”, but didn’t divulge any details of how they would contest this ruling.

“The court has substituted its judgment for that of 10 jurors as well as Congress,” the RIAA wrote. “For nearly a week, a federal jury carefully considered the issues involved in this case, including the profound harm suffered by the music community precisely because of the activity that the defendant admitted engaging in.”

It’s not surprising to see this kind of reaction from the RIAA considering there’s now over half a million dollars ($607,500 to be precise) less to be found in the reward.

Some observers have already said that even the reduced fine of $67,500 is too steep considering most, if not, all of these songs can be found in some stores for merely a dollar each. Tenenbaum has already said that he couldn’t afford the reduced fine, saying, “Obviously, it’s better news than it could have been, but it’s basically equally unpayable to me.”

It’s unclear whether or not the RIAA can recoup the cost of its legal team. No doubt, the RIAA would love to make this a money-making proposition where every cease and desist order is like a lottery ticket that could hold millions. While some observers may have said that a huge fine is great news for artists, there is no evidence to suggest any of that money actually ends up in the hands of artists in the first place.

If these rulings can’t be a money-making proposition, it might force the RIAA to abandon its lawsuit strategy altogether. That doesn’t mean the end of the file-sharing wars, but rather the closing of one long chapter in the RIAAs war against the future. We all know that rights holders have been trying to impose a three strikes law all over the world. The end of the litigation campaign could push a three strikes law to the forefront of American rights holders lobbying strategies. At this point, a lot that hasn’t been decided yet could still be resting on these two cases (Thomas and Tenenbaum).

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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