A federal judge has cut a Boston University student’s illegal file-sharing fine by 90 percent, declaring the original fee “unconstitutionally excessive.”
Last July, a jury decided on a fine of $675,000 against Joel Tenenbaum, a graduate student, for downloading and distributing 30 songs. He filed for a retrial, which resulted in the reduced penalty of $67,500, set by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner on Friday.
In her 62-page ruling, the judge called the original fine “unprecedented and oppressive” and said it violated the Fifth Amendment’s due-process clause. “There is no question that this reduced award is still severe, even harsh,” she judge.
The Recording Industry Association of America, representing the four major recording labels to which Mr. Tenenbaum owes payment, issued a statement declaring its intention to contest the new ruling: “With this decision, the court has substituted its judgment for that of 10 jurors as well as Congress,” the company wrote.
Mr. Tenenbaum told The Boston Globe that despite the reduction, he remains unable to afford the fee. “It’s basically equally unpayable to me,” he said.
According to JoelFightsBack.com, a Web site established by Mr. Tenenbaum’s lawyer to publicize the case, the student intends to continue pursuing legal action, on the grounds that he was denied a fair trial.