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Supreme Court declines to hear appeal of $675,000 damage award for music sharing

The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday denied certiorari [order list, PDF] in Tenenbaum v. Song BMG Music, et al., an appeal by a student who was fined $675,000 by a jury for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the Internet. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Breyer abstained from the decision without explanation. The case now goes back [Boston Herald report] to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website] which has the power to reduce excessive awards under the common law practice of remittitur.

The $675,00 verdict was found at one point to be "unconstitutionally excessive" and reduced to $67,500, but the full amount of the judgment was reinstated [JURIST report] in September by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website]. The original 2009 ruling [JURIST report] held that Joel Tenenbaum [defense website] was liable for illegally downloading music. Four record companies, including Sony BMG and Warner Brothers [corporate websites], brought suit against Tenenbaum for illegally downloading 30 songs in violation of copyright laws. Tenenbaum admitted to downloading hundreds of songs, and the judge directed the jury to consider only the amount of damages [Boston Globe report].

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