The decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a federal judge who slashed the award as “unconstitutionally excessive.” U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner of Boston reduced the verdict to $67,500, or $2,250 for each of the 30 tracks defendant Joel Tenenbaum unlawfully downloaded and shared on Kazaa, a popular file sharing peer-to-peer service. The Recording Industry Association of America and Tenenbaum both appealed in what has been the nation’s second RIAA file sharing case to ever reach a jury.
The Obama administration argued in support of the original award, and said the judge went too far when addressing the constitutionality of the Copyright Act’s damages provisions. The act allows damages of up to $150,000 a track.
The appeals court agreed with the government, and said the judge should have considered reducing the jury’s verdict under what is known as “remittitur.” That is a little-used power beholden to judges, and they assert it without a constitutional basis.