By Sheri Qualters
BOSTON - A jury in a high-profile federal copyright infringement trial here ordered a Boston University graduate student to pay $675,000 to several record companies for illegally downloading and distributing 30 of their songs.
Joel Tenenbaum appeared stoic as the jury announced that each of the 30 counts of willful infringement would cost him $22,500. The tab— while steep — is far less than the $4.5 million that the companies could have received had the jury imposed the maximum per-song damages allowed under law. Copyright law allows for damages of $750 to $30,000 for each copyright infringement and up to $150,000 for each willful infringement.
Tenenbaum said he was happy the verdict wasn’t in the millions and “not displeased with the jury given how the trial went.”
Tenenbaum’s attorney, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, whose case has faced several setbacks in recent weeks, closed his eyes just before the jury read the verdict. Nesson said he expects to appeal the judgment – and contends that U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner’s ruling that Tenenbaum couldn't cite fair use, or the legal use of copyrighted works under certain circumstances, is “vulnerable.” That ruling was issued the morning jury selection began.
“It’s not a fair verdict because the jury never got to consider the fairness issue,” Nesson said. “We had a pretty darn good argument.”