No Supreme Court Relief for Joel Tenenbaum’s $675K Piracy Fine

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The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case of Joel Tenenbaum, who illegally downloaded music during college and now faces a $675,000 fine.

Tenenbaum’s been battling the music industry since 2007, over charges that he downloaded 31 songs online. A federal jury slapped Tenenbaum with a $22,500-per-song verdict in 2009, but a year later, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner reduced the fine to $67,500, calling the original amount “unconstitutionally excessive.” Then, last November, an appeals court raised the verdict back to its original amount.

Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, had hoped the Supreme Court would honor Gertner’s decision and prevent an “endless litigation rat hole” for his client, the New York Times reports.

Instead, the case will continue. As WCVB in Boston notes, U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel will decide whether to impose the $675,000 penalty, ask the Recording Industry Association of America whether it will accept less money from Tenenbaum or order a new trial. Unlike Gertner, who is now retired from the bench, Zobel must not use constitutionality in her reasoning, under orders from the appeals court.

As far as anti-piracy strategies go, this case is a relic for the RIAA, which stopped suing individual file sharers a few years ago. The industry is now more interested in shutting down sources of piracy and getting Internet service providers to warn and punish subscribers for copyright infringement. The trade group says it’s willing to settle with Tenenbaum, but it’s unclear for how much, or whether the defendant would even agree.

In other words, the case is far from over, and as CNet’s Greg Sandoval points out, it could even end up back at the Supreme Court some day.