Court won’t reduce student’s music download fine

Posted May 21, 2012, at 3:58 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has refused to take up a Boston University student’s constitutional challenge to a $675,000 penalty for illegally downloading 30 songs and sharing them on the Internet.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Joel Tenenbaum, of Providence, R.I., who was successfully sued by the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally sharing music on peer-to-peer networks. In 2009, a jury ordered Tenenbaum to pay $675,000, or $22,500 for each song he illegally downloaded and shared.

A federal judge called that unconstitutionally excessive, but the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston reinstated the penalty at the request of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Brothers Records Inc. and other record labels represented by the RIAA.

The judge will have a new opportunity to look at the case and could again order the penalty reduced, using different legal reasoning.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate in the high court’s consideration of the case.

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