Student admits sharing tunes online

July 30, 2009 1:48:17 PM PDT
A Boston University graduate student accused of illegally swapping music online admitted in court Thursday that he has downloaded and shared hundreds of songs by Nirvana, Green Day, The Smashing Pumpkins and other artists. Joel Tenenbaum, 25, of Providence, R.I., was called to the stand by recording industry lawyers who accuse him of copyright infringement. A lawyer for four major recording labels questioned Tenenbaum about songs he downloaded using the Kazaa file-sharing network. He likely will take the stand in his own defense later Thursday.

The case in U.S. District Court in Boston is only the nation's second music-downloading case against an individual to go to trial. Last month, a federal jury ruled a Minnesota woman must pay $1.92 million for copyright infringement.

The industry has typically offered to settle cases for about $5,000, though it has said that it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders. Cases already filed, however, are proceeding to trial.

In opening arguments Tuesday, Tenenbaum's lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, said Tenenbaum "was a kid who did what kids do" and should not be harshly penalized for technological advances that he said recording companies have been slow to embrace.

But Tim Reynolds, one of the lawyers representing the recording industry, said then that song-swappers like Tenenbaum take a significant toll on the recording industry's revenues and on backup singers, sound engineers and other people who make a living in music.

Reynolds said Tenenbaum used a computer in his parents' house in Providence and then at Goucher College in Baltimore, where he was a student, to download and distribute digital files.

The case centers on 30 shared songs, though the recording companies say he distributed many more than that.

Under federal law, the recording companies are entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement but the law allows the jury to raise that to as much as $150,000 per track if it finds the infringements were willful.

In the Minnesota case, the jury ruled Jammie Thomas-Rasset, 32, willfully violated the copyrights on 24 songs and awarded damages of $80,000 per song.

The four recording labels involved in the case are subsidiaries of Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp. and Sony Corp.


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