Are the federal copyright laws designed to target consumers?
If so, are the penalties that can be levied under them constitutional?
These two questions got a public airing up at the First Circuit in Beantown on Monday in a fascinating case concerning unsanctioned song downloading.
The arguments were part of an appeal taken by Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University student sued by the music recording industry. At trial, a jury ruled in favor of the Recording Industry Association of America, ordering Tenenbaum to pay $675,000. The district judge later slashed the award by 90 percent, to $67,500, arguing that the jury’s award was “unconstitutionally excessive.”
On Monday, a lawyer for Tenenbaum, a Harvard law student named Jason Harrow, pushed the notion further, arguing that Congress never intended to punish individual consumers when passing the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999. Click here for the Boston Globe story. Click here, here, here and here for earlier LB posts.
“No one thought the statue would apply to consumer users like this,’’ Harrow, 27, told the court.