Riaa sucks

The RIAA Does Suck

The RIAA strikes again, this time winning a $675,000 fine against a student in Mass for file sharing. The student, Joel Tenenbaum, was fined $22,500 for each of the 30 songs he downloaded. Ouch. If you are a big RIAA fan, don’t get too excited just yet. First of all, the guy had no real defense. Tenebaum hired a famous Harvard law professor, Charles Nesson, to make a fair-use argument. Unfortunately the judge threw out that line of argument before the trial ever began, ruling that fair use was not a valid argument to make in this case (thus one basis for their appeal).

I have a valid defense for Tenenbaum or anyone who is trying to fight a file-sharing case, it’s called the Constitution. Specifically the 8th Amendment (somewhat of a forgotten amendment) states “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted”. The key phrase here is “nor excessive fines imposed”. Let’s take a look at this situation, the guy has to pay a total of $675,000, or $22,000 per song. What exactly is the fine for? He illegally downloaded a couple of megabytes of data. That data certainly isn’t worth over a half a million dollars. Even if you want to argue he stole valuable intellectual property, fine, but what is the value of that which he stole? 30 songs on iTunes will run you about $30 bucks, yet he has been fined $675,000 dollars for stealing $30 bucks worth of songs. One of the lessons here is, if you are going to steal songs, it’s better to go to Wal-mart and just steal the CD, the repercussions will be far less severe. So why isn’t the 8th Amendment a valid argument here? In any reasonable world is this fine justified or not seen as excessive? I just don’t see it.

The only good news here is that the kid is basically judgment proof. He’s already said he’s going to appeal this as long as he can, drag it out as long as he can and then in the end, worst case scenario, he’ll declare bankruptcy and avoid paying the RIAA anything. In the process the RIAA will spend millions on this case alone in their effort to “send a message”. Yeah, that message is that the RIAA are a bunch of A-holes, they don’t really care about consumers and oh yeah, they just lost another couple of million possible consumers. Hopefully, some day, the RIAA will just bankrupt themselves trying to win legal cases against college students and housewives who wanted to listen to Debbie Gibson. One can hope any way.

Joel Tenenbaum Defended by Harvard Professor