back to article Boston student fined thousands for Napstering

A Boston University student has been found guilty of breaking copyright laws by downloading and uploading songs using Napster and Kazaa. Joel Tenenbaum admitted downloading 30 songs and must pay Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony $22,500 (£13,438) per song. He could have faced up to $150,000 per track, and seems to view …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have often wondered.....

    How robust an honest defence of "I would never have paid for it anyway" would be?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do the RIAA seriously think this will deter anybody?

    The genie is out of the bottle. It ain't gonna go back in.

    They aren't deterring people from file-sharing, they're just making those with some common sense more careful about it. Let the idiots make the headlines while the rest keep their heads down and carry on.

    Anyway, it's a hollow victory. They'll never get the money.

    Where's the "shrugging your shoulders" icon?

  3. Jimboom

    Low figure

    I dunno who has it wrong, but everywhere else I have been reading this says the guy was fined $675000.

    Are perhaps the media hyping this number up to scare off others from doing the same?

    But either way this seems a lot of money for a university grad student. The record companies are basically saying screw you, we don't care about our customers. If you cross us we will screw your life up for a long time to come. And what pray tell does this money go towards? Some kind of special customer service? Perhaps it goes to the artists to help pay to the life they have become accustomed to? Nope. It goes straight to the record company bigwigs.

    I don't know about you, but I am all for supporting my favorite artist/band... not their record label

    I'll get me coat... it's the ones with the bankruptcy documents in them...

  4. Jo 5
    Thumb Down

    Makes me angry

    I don't download torrent music or Kazaa etc - so i don't have a huge amount of sympathy. But what does concern me is that these giant companies can feel justified in imposing such a HUGE fine. What kind of message does this send to consumers? Pay 17.99 GBP for a crappy CD for a millionaire artist with only one half decent song on there OR pay .7 million $ for stealing it.

    Im still sure that people who 'steal' music spend more on CD's, concerts, t-shirts etc than those who dont.

    And where is the industry wide approved alternative? Its the same with games. Sometimes you just cannot find the game you want in an online store and cannot buy it on a digital download because you are in the wrong region or don't have the right kind of credit card. No wonder people go with the more convenient if illegal option.

  5. Doug Glass
    Thumb Up

    Just Deserts

    Serves the thief right. The rest of you content criminals better take note; you're next.

  6. Neil Dawson

    £13K a song?!?!?!?

    In anyone's eyes, that is a lot of dosh for 3 minutes of Celine Dion or whatever we has listening to.

    I'm sure that's exactly the loss per song that Universal and Warner suffered.

    Bugger me

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Silly Joel?

    I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Is there a prize for Best Headline Pun?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Kazaa that's quite old

    Is this a long running case or did this kid just hit with this out of the blue....

    What are the chance of them coming after me for things I did in the distant past?

  9. Anonymous Coward

    for that money...

    ... I hope he got to keep the songs

  10. Colonel Panic

    Law 101

    He wasn't "found guilty" or "fined".

    This was a lawsuit - an action by a private party to recover damages from another for a civil wrong - not a prosecution for a crime.

    The jury found him *liable* and awarded *damages* to the plaintiff.

    Sheesh.. does no one watch tv anymore ? You pick stuff up...

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    That will pay for a lot of top execs' coke...

    You download 30 tracks, then gotta pay $22,500 for each?

    How is that justified? Even an upmark of 100% would still mean a $30 fine.

    Also, this guy must plan on becoming Congressman or something, coz it's not with a honest salary that you can pay that kind of fine.

  12. Andus McCoatover


    ..why pay Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony the money? Did they write and perform the songs?

    What about paying it to the infringed artists instead?

    (Cupid Stunt for lying, however)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fined for uploading, not downloading?

    I'd assume the fines are more for uploading the tracks than for downloading them. Every person who receives them is likely to share them further, increasing the potential lost profits.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: Again...

    Because the studios own the songs and paid for them. Duh. You might as well say, "Tesco doesn't raise pigs, so why should they be paid for the bacon they sell?"

  15. David 105

    @Andus McCoatover

    I totally agree, any fines should be paid by cheque made out to the artist (or artists) responsible for producing the song that was copyright infringed (note I didn't say stolen because, unlike RIAA and a Mr Doug Glass, I know the correct terminology). I'm sure they'll be pleasantly surprised at how much the record company values their work, as I'll bet they don't get anything near that much for an album they produce

  16. smudge

    @ Jimboom

    > "I dunno who has it wrong, but everywhere else I have been reading this says the guy was fined $675000."

    You have it wrong :-) 30 x $22500 is $675000.

  17. Nic 3
    Thumb Up


    Because they produced/distributed them? That was the deal.

    I think the fine is too high and actually fails in its purpose. It may as well have been a trillion if all it is going to do is make him bankrupt. Punative punishments are proportional to income in criminal courts and should be for this type of action too.

    Personally I am dead against illegal file sharing and the robin hood concept some people pick in is distorted and plain wrong. but perspective is needed here.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Learn to read,

    $22,500 x 30 = $675000

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Recording industry employee alert

    @Doug Glass: You bigot.

  20. W

    Two(-ish) things.

    1. That fine/"award for damages" is astonishing. Is it really expected that it'll be paid off? Bit by bit, over the years to come? And that the lad in question will basically be in debt for the rest of his life because of uploading 3 or 4 albums? Hmmm. What's the real upshot of these fine/"award for damages"? I can't take such a ruling seriously when it's so out of proportion to the offence.

    2. a) Amazon's mp3 store seems to be just about getting to the point where their catalogue is sufficiently extensive as to be a credible alternative to CDs. But the price is still crazy - There is no way on this earth that mp3s will become the default format at £5 or more for an mp3 album of 12 songs. Especially when a massive slew of CDs are available from Amazon Marketplace for well under a fiver. Yet an Amazon mp3 albums will often be the same price as new CDs (which are still being released at a smidge under a tenner). Same goes for iTunes. Too pricey. Ok, if you buy the odd song, but hopeless if you're a music enthusiast.

    2. b) eMusic seemed like a possible way forward. Their catalogue was not sufficiently comprehensive, but their prices were close to acceptable. After weighing it up, and just as I was on the cusp of committing to a subscription, they announced the tie-in with the majors. And a price rise. The utter fools managed to take away eMusics key attraction.

    2 c) Spotify streaming is great for previewing and exploring. It's the /beginning/ of the future. To pretend otherwise is insane. But there needs to be a /properly/ compelling paid for version that's better than just 'no ads for £10 per month'. How about £3/4/5 per month for a multi-platform mobile phone streaming version for starters? Though if you want me to pay any real amount of money for recorded music, I want to be able to keep it. CDs allow me to do that. There's no going back. The cat's out of the bag. Renting music just doesn't cut it. How about £10 per month for a minimum of 100(?) downloaded tracks. Then I'd be listening. Or a bit more extra (£5/10?) for unlimited downloads? And maybe £20 a month for a combined mobile phone streaming and unlimited downloads package? Simples!

    Now I appreciate that "they" have the fear that some folk will subscribe for a month and download the entire history of recorded music, then leave, re-subscribe at a later date and scoop up the rest. Some folk will. And some folk will just p2p and you'll get nothing. Maybe you could increase the download allowance the longer a person has been a subscriber - Gmail inbox style. Note to industry: incentives, rather than threats are more of an encouragement to Do The Right Thing. But to worry too much about that ignores that fact that there are still plenty of folk willing to pay for new music, and that those folk are their core customers. The other folk wouldn't have provided any major revenue anyway.

    And let's be honest - the entire history of recorded music has been utterly milked (by way of sales, compilations, bundles, re-issues, licensing for ads etc) to the point where its value as a saleable commodity is verging toward zero at an ever increasing rate anyway. Bite the bullet and get with the program. But they just won't, will they?

    [Context: I don't p2p. I buy CDs, (mainly from Amazon Marketplace), and then rip 'em.]

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Nic 3

    "I think the fine is too high and actually fails in its purpose. It may as well have been a trillion if all it is going to do is make him bankrupt. Punitive punishments are proportional to income in criminal courts and should be for this type of action too."

    It is not a fine, it is damages. A fine for criminal behaviour has to take in many factors, one of which is being proportionate to the crime, and another is not being unduly harsh to the perpetrator.

    However with civil actions the damages awarded are intended to redress the damage suffered by the plaintiff and as such should be proportionate only to the amount of damage suffered and not the ability of the perp to pay*

    What will happen in this case is that the precedent has been set (or reinforced) that courts will award high damages for IP infringement which gives the RIAA etc. a big stick to go a-beating** and they will arrange a token, but painful, amount from the lying idiot who lost.

    *I know it doesn't work like that when suing rich people, but hey....

    **Remember that these groups are really after a breakthrough against someone like Google so that they can cream billions so every stupidly high award now has to be cherished for the pay-dirt that will arise when a claim against you-tube actually sticks.

  22. Scott 51


    Whats really sad about these and other fines is that the actual artist see none of that money. Its the suit and ties with wingtip bastards that get all the money. And we all know how much talent they have.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Old running case ...

    "Is this a long running case or did this kid just hit with this out of the blue...."

    This has been going on since 2004. He was written to and asked to stop a number of times, he didn't, they started court proceedings and he didn't stop even after that. He was then offered a settlement of $4000 and said he wanted to have his day in court. Up until the last day of the trial he maintained that it wasn't him, that it was his mother, friends, etc, then he admitted that all previous statements were lies.

  24. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Napster? Kazaa?

    Oh my god, I've travelled back to 1998! I must warn people about 9/11 and global warming!

  25. Nic 3
    Thumb Up


    True, wrong term technically but if you read my whole post you could draw that I understand the difference. Believe me, I am qualified in criminal courts in the UK so that's where I get my terminology from.

    On that note, there would be two elements. The primary punitive punishment. Which would still be proportionate to the earnings of the defendant (normally by way of means assessment). The second element would/could be the compensation (or damages as you put it). This (in criminal courts anyway) is considered ancillary and not actually the punishment. However it does take precedence over any "fines".

    The whole thing in a criminal court is still restraint by the means of the defendant. I don't see why in a civil matter such as this the situation could not be the same.

  26. Anonymous Coward


    This is getting rediculous.

    Just because they cant sue the millions that are filesharing doesn't mean they should get rediculous settlements like this one.

    The greed of these record companies is staggering.

    No wonder so many people despise them and refuse to give them any money.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a point...

    As I understand it, in the US legal system, it is the jury who award damages not the judge as in UK and many others.

  28. I didn't do IT.

    Yay for higher "damages"!

    Actually, I am very happy that they label "damages" so high. The student only has to hold out until he can (next) file for bankruptcy (every 7 years or so). In the US, that is really nowhere near as bad as having college debt in the first place...

    If damages were, say, 3x the retail price, this would become "revolving door" litigation. Small claims courts see this all the time; claim made, fighting is more than the claim, judgement filed, on with life. There are companies that do this so often (magazine subscriptions, etc) in the same jurisdiction (I live in a medium-major city) that they stack the claims together; judge just signs once for XX claims that the defendant did not show up (most of them), and boom, bill for money or sign off to collections for 60% - 80% of claim.

    I would prefer the Rec.(tal) In. Ass. of America _don't_ do "business" this way - it would be so common we wouldn't care anymore. Of course, perhaps it would involve enough people to cause Congress to put together a tax on something music related that would ensure our assumed rights to listen to it on our own terms... Oh wait... We already have that; I wonder what the problem is, then. Hmmm...

  29. Tom 35
    Thumb Down

    Fudged "damages"

    "However with civil actions the damages awarded are intended to redress the damage suffered by the plaintiff and as such should be proportionate only to the amount of damage suffered and not the ability of the perp to pay"

    The damages should be $1 per track downloaded + $1 per copy uploaded. Not every copy of a copy made by people up the chain. It would be different if he leaked an unreleased track and not something that was available at HMV.

    They could sue they person he downloaded from, $22k, sue the person he uploaded to $22k. So they would be getting paid multiple times for the same damage.

    No it's not really damage, it's a punitive fine to set an example pretending to be damages.

  30. Anonymous Coward


    As I recall, the article said that he was immediately going to declare bankruptcy when faced with the verdict.

    So the music companies (never even mind the artists) aren't likely to see a penny. Only the lawyers win, which is somehow almost, but not quite as reprehensible as the whole lawsuit in the first place. So in essence, the recording companies paid a lot of money to waste a lot of time and ruin the guy's credit rating (and somewhat his life), likely over songs that only 14-yo'lds would really want, and only for less than a year before moving on to other schlock.

    In short, he got a 'beatdown' because he was infringing on the recording companies' turf, just the same as he would if he offended any criminal orginazation.

    While I don't really condone freetards, I have to agree that most of the people that downloaded music from this guy (or anyone) likely wouldn't have spent any money if they hadn't gotten it free.

    For that matter, I wonder how many of the recording company execs paid for the music they have? And how many copies they 'shared' with virtual strangers, whether or not a computing device was involved...

    The (wretched) fact that idiots will pay $3.99 for a ringtone if it's easily obtainable makes it clear that a different marketing model is needed for music---would anyone pay for an album of ringtones?

  31. Andy Blackburn

    @Graham Dawson

    I actually checked the datestamp of the article when reading as I was sure I had just gone back to my teens!

  32. Levente Szileszky

    MAFRIAA = arrogant retards

    Each and every case like this pisses off another 10-100 people, turning at least few of the into future file sharing users.

    Clearly, as long as MAFRIAA run by ambulance-chasers (aka fat p[r!ck lawyers) and parasitic studio employees they will keep getting beaten more and more every day.

    I, for one, can't wait to see this entire PARASITE STUDIOS die - and soon enough they will, thanks God because sans few uber-movie productions noone needs them any more, period.

  33. Levente Szileszky

    @Doug Glass RE: Just Deserts

    "Serves the thief right. The rest of you content criminals better take note; you're next."

    Well, pal, dunno what "deserts" you're talking about but I can't wait to see your long stupid face when studios will first give up this retarded, losing fight and then disappear entirely.

    What will you, paid shills and clueless mouthpieces do then? Cry? :D

  34. greenmantle

    Please El Reg

    I can't read the bloody article because of the bloody adverts pasted all over the text. Please El Reg, do something about this!

    And btw, before we all get carried away by browser versions (using ie6 sp2 for my sins) and spacing etc, I work as a contractor in a large company and therefore have little or no control over this system (as BOFH would approve most probably), and can't upgrade to my favorite browser.

    What is the point of an advert if it covers up what I want to read?

  35. H 5

    Business > Law

    The American judicial system is a farce.

  36. Mike 61


    Lots of it, all the time, everything from big names to no names, and I never pay a dime. I use limewire. I have close to a terabyte of mp3. However, I don't share. When the download is complete I move the file to a different server. As far as I can tell what I am doing is completely legal.

    So remember this, download only, don't share, and only download from places outside the jurisdiction of [insert favorite ambulance chasers here]

  37. Martin Owens


    Why don't you just use the Adblocker firefox extension? I always remove adverts from websites that are crippled with them. Although I haven't bothered to remove any of the adverts from some sites as they're ignorable.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Assessing damages

    When they assess damages for a case such as this they should do so properly. Firstly, a proper assessment of how much money the record companies have lost. This is not equal to $15 * each song downloaded, but could be estimated at: disposable income of all people involved in downloading. This would give a useful upper bound to the amount of money that the record companies could have lost in reduced sales. You should then apportion this out to all the people involved in downloading in a sensible way (perhaps hitting people who upload more than people who download). In that context the settlement would probably have come out at a few hundred bucks max.

    Talking about this as theft is highly disingenuous. When you steal something from a shop you take a product that may well get sold if you hadn't stolen it; so you have genuinely lost the company in question an amount of money approximately equal to the value of the stolen goods. When you download a record, especially as a student who probably couldn't even afford to buy the CD, you have not prevented another sale. The cost to the company is minimal. In fact, if I remember my student days, we all recorded our records onto tape and swapped them around. That was because I couldn't afford to buy more than a record or 2 a month. But, when I started work, I started buying albums that I had on tape and really liked, in the end throwing out all my tapes and having a huge CD collection.

    The record companies should realise that the main reason their sales are dropping are because the music is shit. When you manufacture all your bands, and their target demographic is kids with no money, you shouldn't be surprised when you make less money than targetting adults and producing decent music. Take DMB as an example, in the early days they encouraged bootlegging, but then when they released Remember Two Things they sold 150,000 copies, and subsequently went multi-platinum on every album.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Good old

    Leaving aside the questions of whether music piracy is ethical, and whether I'm smart to have given my credit card details to a bunch of Russian gangsters, was a shining example of how internet commerce in music could be handled - great catalogue, reasonable prices which encouraged experimental and impulse buys, and a clean well laid out website.

    The major record companies can say all they want about the dodginess of the Russian (or was it Ukranian?) copyright association, but the fact remains that if they did *exactly* the same thing for themselves, I'd give them gobs and gobs of my money.

    And surely that's what they want?

  40. Steve Roper

    @Martin Owens

    Greenmantle probably WOULD use Firefox (or Opera) if he could, but if you actually read his post:

    "...(using ie6 sp2 for my sins) and spacing etc, I work as a contractor in a large company and therefore have little or no control over this system..."

    you'd realise that he can't. Read first, then post!

  41. Steve Evans


    Where is a student supposed to get $675000... Apart from becoming a lawyer for the RIAA?

    Might as well have made it a few million for all the hope they have of getting that. Even if he gets 50 years to pay it off it's still over £13000 a year... Plus I'm sure he'd have to pay interest!

    @Mike 61, if Limewire is like most other P2P applications, you will be sharing the blocks you have completed whilst you are still downloading the others. So even if you immediately move the file upon completion, you could have still shared the first blocks many times.

    In fact many of the RIAA's spy companies have applications which advertise the hashes of the tracks they represent onto the chosen P2P networks, and then they just wait to see who comes knocking to download them.

  42. Andy ORourke

    @ @ greenmantle (Martin Owens)

    Read his comments!!!!!

    Like me he works for a hyper global mega corp who specify he uses IE 6 (FFS) and will probably sack him if he starts installing unauthorised (no matter how much "better" they are) applications

    Some of us have to suffer every single day using this outdated POS and the majority of the adverts on El Reg dont go to the places they should, most pages dont render properly and the Fu$king Hiscocks POS crashes my browser every time!!!

  43. kain preacher

    I dont get it

    These fines are more than what you would get if some assaulted yo and you sued them in civil court .

    Thees fines are also way higher than if you were to steal the physical CD

  44. andy 45

    @Mike 61

    Great idea mike.

    If no-one shared like you there would be no file /sharing/


  45. Anonymous Coward

    Charlie Nesson

    Prof. Charlie Nesson is the poster child for "TZhose who can't do, teach."

  46. Ed 17
    Thumb Up

    Punative damages for the win

    It doesn't have to be *actual* damages. Not sure why everyone is focused on that. I applaud this decision. Let the kid go file for bankruptcy, he'll enjoy the next 7 years of not being able to get credit, having huge security deposits for rentals, and so on. And yes, he'll still have to pay off his student loans.

    The kid got what he deserved. Quit stealing shit and claiming it's justified. Or at the very least, when you get caught, don't cry foul.

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