Joel Tenenbaum Loses Again; Bad Cases With Lying Defendants Make For Bad Law
from the unfortunate dept
So it's no surprise that, on yet another appeal, Tenenbaum has lost again, as the appeals court has sided with the second district court ruling, which said that a $675,000 award for sharing 30 songs was perfectly reasonable. There is a legitimate issue of whether or not $22,500 per song for songs that were uploaded non-commercially is constitutional. But, partly because of Tenenbaum's own bad behavior, the court has no problem at all with an award that high.
On appeal, Tenenbaum invites us to assume that he is "the most heinous of noncommercial copyright infringers." We need not go so far as to accept his offer. The evidence of Tenenbaum's copyright infringement easily justifies the conclusion that his conduct was egregious. Tenenbaum carried on his activities for years in spite of numerous warnings, he made thousands of songs available illegally, and he denied responsibility during discovery. Much of this behavior was exactly what Congress was trying to deter when it amended the Copyright Act. Therefore, we do not hesitate to conclude that an award of $22,500 per song, an amount representing 15% of the maximum award for willful violations and less than the maximum award for non-willful violations, comports with due process.Basically, an award this high is okay because Tenenbaum was a brat. The court argues that because he was such a brat an award this high makes sense because it fits in with the "deterrent effect" intended by statutory damages awards. Of course, if you think about that logically, it makes little sense, because by Tenenbaum's own actions, it appears that nothing was going to deter him from file sharing, just as other giant awards and greater levels of punishment have done little to nothing to deter others from file sharing. But, all of that is blurred by the fact that he lied, which mucked up the entire case, combined with a really piss poor strategy in court that never seemed to reach a point that was even half-baked.
There are legitimate questions about the constitutionality of copyright's statutory damages awards, which are nowhere near proportionate with the "wrongs" they are supposedly "righting." But, you don't get good rulings on difficult cases when you have a defendant who acted badly and lied during discovery. Instead, you get a bad precedent like this one.