16-Year-Old Downloaded Songs, Now Charged $675,000

Joel Tenenbaum has been ordered to pay a fine of $675,000 for illegally sharing 31 music files back when he was a mere 16 years old. Tenenbaum, now 25, was ordered to pay the amount five years after the case initially went to court back in 2007.

Tenenbaum was 16 years old when a letter arrived at his house demanding he pay $5,250 for downloading seven songs. The young man responded saying he could only pay $500, according to the BBC. The case finally made it to court in 2007 after top record companies decided to pursue the case. The jury in that case found that Tenenbaum’s illegal file-sharing was willful and decided to fine him $675,000.

Tenenbaum reportedly refused to settle, arguing that the penalty was unconstitutional. The judge agreed that the fine was excessive and the case was pushed back to 2009. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t want to touch this particular case with a 10-foot pole, according to CNET.

This week’s ruling in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts upheld the original fine the jury had decided upon back in 2007. The judge made a statement about the final ruling, stating that Tenenbaum willfully neglected several warnings about file sharing and continued to violate copyright laws anyway. The judge concluded that Tenenbaum’s awareness about what he was doing as he uploaded and downloaded files made the fine appropriate.

The BBC notes that during the trial, Tenenbaum admitted to downloading and sharing around 800 songs. He could have been fined $150,000 for every song he shared, or every incidenct of copyright infringement, which officially means he could have had to pay over $4 million for the original 31 files under dispute in this case.

The Recording Industry Association of America expressed the pleasure at the newest verdict, simply stating, “We are pleased with the District Court’s decision,” according to CNET. Tenenbaum’s lawyer did not have a statement for the press after Friday’s decision.

The case sets a firm precedent in an era where music sharing has become a common practice. Global legislation has been swirling around many European and North American countries in recent years, with the United States spearheading a campaign to oust torrent sites like Pirate Bay. Just this month, the famous torrent-sharing site, Demonoid, was shut down by Ukrainian officials as part of the global campaign to slow file-sharing.

Tenenbaum’s case has served the recording industry well by making a public example of Tenenbaum.

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Photo Credit: Aravind Sivaraj


Stenpney John
Past Member 4 years ago

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Lin M
Lin M5 years ago

Stupid decision. When are they going to fine all the others?

Linda S.
Linda S5 years ago

Yes, we should support the court ruling received by Tenenbaum. It makes so much sense to go after a boy of sixteen as opposed to adults who do the small crime only at a much higher level. Further, to assist Joel with support of any kind the better decision was to throw him to the wolves. Where were all the other young people along with their respective adults when this was happening?

It was horror Joel had to undergo. It was wrong for the The Recording Industry Association of America when they expressed the pleasure at the newest verdict, simply stating, “We are pleased with the District Court’s decision,” according to CNET. I hope they are pleased their cowardly action to make an example of Joel gave them satisfaction.

In one way I understand Joel taking his own life. I will not judge him on that aspect. But in another light, I think Joel was making a huge statement to bring attention to the world of what huge corporations are really about. To them, I would suggest Joel was merely a necessary pawn to achieve their goals. I most fervently hope someone in the RIA will have the decency to mourn Joel's passing.

Pamela W.
Pamela W5 years ago

The fine is RIDICULOUS !!!! The "piracy" of music, films etc has been rampant for years now - it's about time the boot was put on the other foot and those who stand to "lose" are made to PROTECT their goods. Some films have technical protection within them, to prevent copying, so why can't this be applied to music too ?????
Drawing a parallel .... if I leave my car or my house unlocked, I can't claim on my insurance or "sue" someone for anything stolen from it ! Laws are perhaps different over there but, in France, if you leave something "available" or in full vision (say on the seat of your car) then you are held partly responsible as having "tempted" the thief !!!

Bob Abell
Dr. Bob Abell5 years ago

How much were the banks fined for basically destroying the US economy with their Credit Default Swaps and Collateral Debt Obligations? The whole of society is totally out of whack.

Phil A.
Philip A5 years ago

That fine is VERY excessive. Another sign that if you mess with "the Powers", you'll be made an example of.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper5 years ago

Seems excessive

Huber F.
Huber F5 years ago


Alina G.

Crazy action!

Judith Howard
Judith Howard5 years ago

Come on, $675,000? A bit excessive in my opinion.