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Federal appeals court reinstates $675,000 damages in music sharing case

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] on Friday reinstated [opinion] a $675,000 verdict against a Boston University [academic website] student who illegally downloaded 30 songs and then shared them on the Web.The verdict was, at one point, reduced to $67,500, because then-judge Nancy Gertner, who has since retired, found the original penalty "unconstitutionally excessive." Gertner should not have approached the reduction as a constitutional question, the appeals court ruled. A trial judge may reduce the penalty again, however, if the reduction is done in accordance with the common law practice of allowing the winning party to either pay the smaller amount or demand a new trial.

The original 2009 ruling held that Joel Tenenbaum [defense website] is liable for illegally downloading music. Four record companies, including Sony BMG and Warner Brothers [corporate websites], brought suit against Tenenbaum in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website], accusing him of illegally downloading 30 songs [complaint, PDF] in violation of copyright laws. Tenenbaum admitted to downloading hundreds of songs, and Gertner directed the jury to consider only the amount of damages [Boston Globe report].

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