Download Damage: Student's Defense in Record Industry Case May Hurt Copyright Holders

Joel Tenenbaum has seriously harmed the music industry. That, at least, is what Sony, Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Arista and Universal Music Group are saying. And that's why these music industry giants are collectively suing Tenenbaum for copyright infringement damages that could exceed $1 million.

Tenenbaum allegedly used peer-to-peer software to download and share seven copyrighted songs.

Grossly Excessive

There's a reason Congress gave copyright owners the option to collect statutory damages instead of actual damages. "Congress realized there would be a category of cases where it would be hard to prove the specific harm done to the copyright owner, even though there was specific harm. So Congress authorized statutory damages to make the copyright owner whole and to deter future copyright infringement," says Douglas Lichtman, who teaches copyright law at UCLA.

Clear Limit

Even if these statutory damages are excessive, it is unclear if they are unconstitutional under Gore. Because that case dealt with punitive damages, the Gore test may not apply to statutory damages.


Steven Seidenberg

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