DoJ supports higher copyright infringement fines

The Obama administration is supporting a court decision to award the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) $675,000 in damages related to a file sharing case last year.

“In establishing the range [of copyright damage amounts: $750 to $150,000 per infringement], Congress took into account the need to deter the millions of users of new media from infringing copyrights in an environment where many violators believe they will go unnoticed,” according to the Department of Justice filing.

Last summer, Joel Tenebaum, a Boston University graduate student, lost a verdict in a high-profile copyright infringement case.  Despite a talented legal team headed by a Harvard University Law professor, the jury sided with the RIAA, and imposed a $675,000 fine.


As part of its decision to uphold the fine, the government seeks to confront “a public harm that Congress is determined must be deterred.”

Tenenbaum is now seeking a retrial or lesser fines, as he believes the $22,500 per-song penalty is too high (gee, really?). He’s looking for a retrial or a $750 per-song fine.  The RIAA is unlikely to budge, and expects to win a retrial that will confirm the $22,500 per-song fine.

He admitted to downloading and sharing 30 copyrighted songs over the Internet, according to reports, and faced a maximum $4.5 million copyright infringement fine.

The outcome isn’t too surprising since Obama picked five former RIAA attorneys to serve in his staff.  However, the RIAA isn’t  expected to file any more individual file sharing lawsuits, as the trade group is expected to focus on ISP cooperation instead.

Only two people have taken the RIAA to court regarding John Doe lawsuits, with both defendants losing their legal cases.