Filesharing Lawsuits: Expensive, but Not Unconstitutionally So

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If nothing else, you have to feel sorry for poor Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University student who managed to get his $675,000 file-sharing verdict reduced to $67,500… and then watched as an appeals court bumped it back up to its original amount again, reports Ars Technica.

Tenenbaum was ordered to pay $675,000 by a jury after being sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for file-sharing, but Judge Nancy Gertner reduced that amount by 90% on the basis that the original amount was so high that it was “unconstitutionally excessive.” Sadly, that opinion wasn’t shared by either the RIAA, who appealed the decision, nor the the First Circuit Court of Appeals, who reinstated the judgment of $675,000.

(MORE: ‘LimeWire’ File Sharing Service Sued by Record Labels… Again)

The problem, it seems, was the method by which Judge Gertner reduced the judgment. The verdict from the First Circuit criticizes her for going to the constitutional argument instead of the more common notion of “remittitur,” which simply allows a judge to lower damages while allowing the plaintiff to ask for a new trial if they don’t agree with the reduced damages (Gertner said at the time that the music labels “stated in open court that they likely would not accept a remitted award”).

However, although the First Circuit court reinstated the full award against Tenenbaum, it didn’t necessarily agree with it, saying that they “comment that this case raises concerns about application of the Copyright Act which Congress may wish to examine.” That comfort doesn’t necessarily help Tenenbaum’s current situation, sadly.

MORE: RIAA Wins Lawsuit Against Really Unlucky Woman

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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