The RIAA once made a habit of suing people en masse, often extracting small settlements from file-sharers before trial. So when Sony’s case against Joel Tenenbaum was not settled but tried, leading the jury to return a $675,000 verdict against him, lots of people noticed. The trial judge later reduced the verdict by 90%, which was appealed. To the surprise of many, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has just reinstated the original verdict:
A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a whopping $675,000 file sharing verdict that a jury levied against a Boston college student for making 30 tracks of music available on a peer-to-peer network. The decision by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a federal judge who slashed the award as “unconstitutionally excessive.” . . .
The Obama administration argued [on appeal] 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 . . . and said the judge should have considered reducing the jury’s verdict under what is known as “remittitur.” . . . . “Had the court ordered remittitur of a particular amount, Sony would have then had a choice. It could have accepted the reduced award [suggested by the judge]. Or, it could have rejected the remittitur, in which case a new trial would have ensued.”