Posted by Guest Blogger Alison
What’s your take on file sharing? Should it be illegal to download your favorite music for free and if so, what should the penalty be if you are caught?
Well, according to the Massachusetts District Court, downloading is a serious crime. Serious enough to warrant a $675,000 fine. Joel Tenenbaum, a US student, was recently found guilty of illegally downloading music and fined $22,500 per song to which he admitted to downloading.
Tenenbaum was sued by Sony BMG and accused of downloading more than 800 songs since 1999. The court case focused on 30 tracks that Mr Tenenbaum admitted downloading. Under US law, recording companies can claim up to $30,000 per infringement although the jury can raise the amount to $150,000 if it finds the infringements were willful.
In the past, courts were reluctant to give out heavy fines for illegal downloading activities because there were not many legal alternative to illegal downloads and the market for online music was considered "unfair." In this case, the Court gave Tenenbaum a heavier fine because some of his downloading activities were detected after Apple established its iTunes store, the court said.
So will this make you rethink your online activities? Or are you already diligently paying for every song you download through iTunes? While I understand that there are arguments for the protection of intellectual property rights, the fine in this case seems excessively high, especially considering that Tenenbaum is a student. Tenenbaum is asking for a retrial, claiming that "the Court should substantially reduce the bankrupting…award against [him]".
If the court is set on making an example of Tenenbaum then we may need to start taking our online activities a little more seriously regardless of where we live. I know I for one will be extra cautious about where my music comes from. If we don’t want to pay to download music, perhaps the good old-fashioned walkman is good enough?