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Recording industry music downloading trial begins

[JURIST] The substantive portion of the civil trial of Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum [defense website], accused of illegally downloading seven songs [complaint, PDF], began in Boston on Tuesday. On Monday, jury selection [Boston Globe report] was completed, and, in a significant setback for the defense team, led by Harvard professor Charles Nesson [academic profile], Judge Nancy Gertner of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website], rejected [NECN report] Tenenbaum's proposed fair use [backgrounder] defense. The ruling was crucial, as Tenenbaum has admitted to downloading the songs, and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [organization website] has possession of his computer hard drive. If found liable, Tenenbaum could face a fine of $80,000 per song, similar to that levied against Jammie Thomas-Rasset in a similar file-sharing case last month [JURIST report].

The suit against Tenenbaum, brought by four record companies including Sony BMG and Warner Brothers [corporate websites], may be the last to be brought to trial, as the RIAA in December decided to discontinue pursuing [JURIST report] those accused of illegal file-sharing in court. The RIAA has indicated that it will work with internet service providers to identify and then deny service to those who infringe copyrights. The RIAA has also sent letters [press release] to thousands of individuals with an offer to settle infringement claims out of court.

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