DoJ supports RIAA in Sony v. Tenenbaum three-ring circus

23 03 2009

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The Department of Justice and the Free Software Foundation have both jumped into the file-sharing lawsuit against Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum, whose case has already moved from funky to downright bizarre. The outside parties are most concerned about the issue of statutory damages; are fines from 0 to 0,000 per song even legal under the US Constitution, or are they so egregious as to be unconstitutional?

Such key questions underlie Tenenbaum’s defense, which is headed by professor Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School (and worked on by his law students). Nesson’s contention is that the statutory damage awards apply only to commercial infringers, not to students swapping songs from their dorm rooms; that the RIAA lawsuit campaign doesn’t look like a civil matter, but a criminal matter, and thus private parties should not bring such kinds of litigation; and that the statutory amounts, if legal, are simply obscene.

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