One Man's Fine for Illegal Music Downloads: $675,000

Boston University graduate avoids the maximum fine

By Mark Morales
|  Saturday, Aug 1, 2009  |  Updated 12:15 PM CDT
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Joel Tenenbaum, leaves federal court, with a full iPod and an empty wallet.

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A Boston University graduate is paying the price for rocking out for free.

A federal jury has ordered Joel Tenenbaum, 25, of Providence, R.I., to pay four record companies $675,000 for illegally downloading and distributing 30 songs.

Tenenbaum, who only paid $22,500 for each case of copyright infringement avoiding the maximum $150,000 per track, said the relatively small amount in comparison, is a victory.

"That to me sends the message of 'We considered your side with some legitimacy," he said. '$4.5 million would have been, 'We don't buy it at all.'"

Tenenbaum's lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, plans to appeal the verdict because he wasn't able to argue the case based on fair use. 

The recording Industry Association of America, released a statement, praising the jury's verdict, and Tenenbaum's admission of guilt.

"We appreciate that Mr. Tenenbaum finally acknowledged that artists and music companies deserve to be paid for their work," the statement read. "From the beginning, that's what this case has been about. We only wish he had done so sooner rather than lie about his illegal behavior."  

Tenenbaum, who admitted to downloading and sharing over 800 songs from 1999 to 2007, from artists like Nirvana, Greenday, and the Smashing Pumpkins, originally testified in pretrial dispositions that his two sisters, friends, and others may have been responsible for the illegal downloads.

He was only charged with downloading 30 songs.

Under questioning by his own lawyer, Tenenbaum took responsibility, saying "I used the computer. I uploaded. I downloaded. I did it."

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