Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

File-sharing student fights fine

Joel Tenenbaum (AP)
Joel Tenenbaum said his fine was excessive

A US student who was fined $675,000 (£421,000) for illegally downloading music has asked a judge to reduce the damages or offer him a retrial.

Joel Tenenbaum said that the fine was "grossly excessive".

The court case focused on 30 tracks that Mr Tenenbaum admitted downloading. He was fined $22,500 per song.

The court admitted that initially the market for online music was "unfair" because there were not many legal alternatives to illegal downloads.

The case, between Sony BMG and Mr Tenenbaum, was one of the first to acknowledge that consumers did not have much choice in the early days of digital music.

But Mr Tenenbaum was fined more heavily because some of his illegal file-sharing activities were detected after Apple established its iTunes store, the court said.

Mr Tenenbaum is being represented by internet lawyer Charles Nesson.

In his motion filed to the Massachusetts District Court, Mr Nesson argues that the fact that iTunes music was initially restricted by Digital Rights Management software made it "less appealing" than illegal DRM-free alternatives.

"The court ignored the impact encryption had on the fairness of music consumers' choice.

"Tenenbaum and all other music listeners could not get exactly the songs they wanted, in exactly the format they wanted until the industry giants changed their position in 2007," he added.

As such he argues that "the Court should substantially reduce the bankrupting...award against Tenenbaum".

Under US law, recording companies can claim up to $30,000 per infringement although the jury can raise the amount to $150,000 if it finds the infringements were wilful.

Although his trial focused on 30 tracks, Mr Tenenbaum admitted downloading more than 800 songs since 1999.

After the trial, supporters began to donate money to Mr Tenenbaum but he refused it.

"I ask no-one to help me. And I ask for no-one to cover what I signed up for," he said at the time.

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