The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal from a Boston University student who was slapped with a $675,000 penalty for illegally downloading 31 songs and sharing them on the internet.
Joel Tenenbaum was sued in 2007 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after Sony BMG, Warner Brothers and other record labels accused him of copyright infringement for sharing songs like Aerosmith's "Pink" and Eminem's "My Name Is" on a peer-to-peer network.
Tenenbaum was fined $675,000, but in 2009, a federal judge in Boston downgraded the penalty to just $67,500, deeming the original fine "unconstitutionally excessive."
Following pleas for further leniency from Tenenbaum and indignant filings from the RIAA, a federal appeals court revisited the ruling last year and reinstated the $675,000 judgment against Tenenbaum, a graduate student in his late twenties pursuing a physics PhD at Boston University.
Tenenbaum's lawyers argued that federal copyright laws and the Digital Theft Deterrence Act were not meant to target consumers. Lawyers representing the recording industry argued that the economic impact of illegal downloading is much greater than the sharing of one song.
The case ultimately came down to one of constitutionality, according to the ruling by the US First Circuit Court of Appeals. The court determined that the judge who downgraded Tenenbaum's penalty did not have the power to reduce damages in a copyright trial.
The Supreme Court denied Tenenbaum's petition for the case to be reviewed.