Recording Industry Succeeds In Ruining a Kid's Life Over 31 Stupid Songs

By Mario Aguilar on at

Yesterday marked the end of Joel Tenenbaum's court battle with the RIAA over 31 songs he illegally distributed on Kazza. A federal judge denied his latest appeal, and now he's on the hook for £426,000-odd. That's just under £14,000 per song — the minimum under the law — plus some wholesale character assassination that has now been sealed with judge's rubber stamp.

U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel declined Tenenbaum's last appeal, saying the jury decided correctly last year when it found that Tenenbaum had willfully stolen the songs and that he knew better. But rather than uphold the decision and move on, Zobel took the opportunity to moralise:

In short, there was ample evidence of wilfulness and the need for deterrence based on Tenenbaum's blatant contempt of warnings and apparent disregard for the consequences of his actions. In spite of the overwhelming
evidence from which the jury could conclude that Tenenbaum's activities were wilful, the award of $22,500 per infringement not only was at the low end of the range – only 15 per cent of the statutory maximum – for wilful infringement, but was below the statutory maximum for non-wilful infringement.

To translate the lawspeak, the judge basically says that Tenenabaum was a very naughty boy who should've known better, and it was awfully nice of the jury to be so lenient. After all, they could have hit Tenenbaum with a £3 million penalty.

This is the end of the line for Tenenbaum; the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning that he's out of options. That £426,000-odd fine will stand. We asked the RIAA for comment, and they pointed us to pages 5 and 6 of the decision, which "speaks for itself." These are the two pages that include Zobel's pontificating above. It's a forensic analysis of Tenebaum's character rather than an analysis that cuts to the facts of the case.

Regardless of what the maximum allowable penalty is, anything more than a slap on the wrist for Tenenbaum's actions would have been hugely disproportionate to the crime. As it stands, the RIAA has certainly made an example by ruining one kid's life financially and dragging his name through the mud. Although it's maybe not the one they intended. [CNET]