Would you pay $22,500 to download a song?

Posted by andreaitis on July 31, 2009

Image representing Kazaa as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

That’s how much Joel Tenenbaum has to pay for the 30 songs he illegally downloaded and shared over the KaZaA peer-to-peer network.

After a brief deliberation, a federal jury has ruled that PhD student Joel Tenenbaum willfully infringed on the record labels’ copyrights, awarding them $675,000 in damages, $22,500 for each of the 30 songs in question.  The figure is closer to the $222,000 award in the first Jammie Thomas-Rasset trial than the $1.92 million figure from the second trial.

The verdict came down at late Friday afternoon after less than three hours of deliberation.

via Oy Tenenbaum! RIAA wins $675,000 – Ars Technica

Image representing RIAA, Recording Industry As...

Image via CrunchBase

On the stand, the 25 year old Tenenbaum admitted to everything, even lying during a previous deposition.  Was honesty the best policy?  The award could have been much more, though it’s hefty enough that Tenenbaum will have to file for bankruptcy if it stands.  And there are other cases waiting in the wings, with approximately 18,000 individuals targeted by the labels.  Tenenbaum is the second to  go to trial, and the second to lose.  That means 18,000 people are feeling pretty nervous right now.

We’ve seen Radiohead and other artists find new ways to market their music.  Is the RIAA taking the right approach here?  Is $22,500 a song too high a price to pay?


7 Responses to “Would you pay $22,500 to download a song?”

  1. misterb said

    Sweden has a Pirate Party, sounds like it’s time to start one on the US. In no way does the punishment fit the crime – the record companies are at most entitled to revenues lost X 3 for punishment – $.99 * 30 * 3. A fair fine would be $90.
    Young people should fight back – this old guy would be behind them 100%

  2. andreaitis said

    You’ve asked the right question: why isn’t there a rousing groundswell of support for Joel Tenenbaum? There has been some support, granted, and there is a site called, but even that feels more like principle than passion. Is it that the issue is too murky? Or are people afraid they might be the next ones nabbed?

  3. weaverdrew said

    I agree the RIAA/labels have been motivated to quash any innovation around music distribution by anyone but themselves (as they teeter on being displaced). But it’s not cool for individual users to redistribute an artist’s music on a mass scale without that artist’s permission, as this guy did. Reznor and ilk aside, not all artists agree that their “art is meant to be shared” in a way that deprives them of compensation for their work. (Insert retort here re: vague profits from t-shirts and concert tickets.)

    BTW the judgment may have focused on 30 tracks but he apparently redistributed hundreds on P2P networks and failed to cease after being warned…

  4. andreaitis said

    Mmm, the suit focused on 30 tracks so that’s all that should be taken into account. I’d argue this is an old-fashioned “solution” to a new-fangled problem. It’s a scare tactic, plain and simple. It won’t fix anything in the long run. Radiohead made money on their pay-what-you-want experiment with In Rainbows. Their overhead was lower, allowing for a greater cut of the profits. There is a legitimate issue here: how to fairly compensate artists for their work. We’re far from defining compensation and what’s fair in today’s tech world. Maybe it’ll be a race to see what dies first, newspapers or music labels…

    • weaverdrew said

      Agree with all that.

      My point is that while I don’t support label scare tactics like this lawsuit, I don’t support Tenenbaum’s position either. I support the artists, many (most?) of whom do not feel their content should be mass distributed by others without compensation.

    • rob peterson said

      In the spirit of your byline, the RIAA is being RI.DICK.LESS. It is all scare tactics with just a few unfortunates getting caught and being fined disproportional fines for what they did.

      I don’t think that scares too many people. I’d equate that fear at about the same percent as one would place the odds of getting bit by a shark during Shark Week.(Now on DISC). Ha.

      Now, what should they do? Honestly, I don’t have a clue, but new CD’s shouldn’t be priced fixed everywhere at approx 11.00 to 16.00.

  5. LeeAnn Maton said

    Count in thousands of college students along with those 18,000 nervous downloaders, although the RIAA prefers “deterrence” to your apt label of “scare tactic.” As in, since launching their College Deterrence Campaign, the RIAA has sent out hundreds of “prelitigation settlement letters” to dozens of campuses, with students sometimes settling for thousands of dollars. What bothers me most, though, is how willingly some campuses have been to turn over students without so much as putting up a fight. In the fight against music theft, where does privacy come in? Illegal though it may be, should colleges turn over their own tuition-paying students?

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