We reported last week on the efforts of Charles Nesson to have the Supreme Court hear his client’s (Joel Tenenbaum) case. The Supreme Court has denied Nesson’s petition. It’s unfortunate since a Supreme Court verdict would go a long way in clearing up the mess we’re in right now.
As we explained on Friday, the problem came in the form of the original jury award in Tenenbaum’s case. The judge overturned the jury’s decision, however, saying that the award was unconstitutional. When the case went to the appellate level, the judge said that the trial judge couldn’t denounce the award as unconstitutional without first using remittitur.
That funky word – remittitur – is the main problem here though. Remittitur is a process that the judge can use to slash the award before reaching any kind of constitutional question. As Ars Technica points out, judges must try to resolve processes using “lower-order issues” before they can even approach any questions of constitutionality.
So what does the refusal of the Supreme Court mean? Tenenbaum will be heading back to the trial level where the judge will more than likely apply remittitur. Unfortunately, remittitur has a drawback – the RIAA can accept the lesser amount or they can force Tenenbaum through the legislative process again. The goal, according to Nesson, is to get Tenenbaum to settle so they can send a message to other would be file-sharers.
The message according to Nesson is that the RIAA controls the Internet. He says that the RIAA is creating an “urban legend” of sorts that will scare people away from using the Internet. He says their goal is to “reverse the tide of the digital future.”
While I regret that the Supreme Court didn’t choose to hear this case, I think that Nesson may have played a part in their refusal. I agree that the RIAA was trying to create this “urban legend” during the last decade, but they have cleaned their act up in the last few years. While their tactics may still seem awful and draconian to us, they probably appear far less offensive to the Justices.
Nesson’s argument that Tenenbaum wasn’t responsible because the songs would have been pirated anyway probably didn’t win over any of the Justices either. The fact of the matter is that Tenenbaum was caught and he admitted to the file-sharing. While we may agree that the music would have been pirated either way, Tenenbaum has already submitted himself to the courts with his admission.
The only thing we can hope for now is that the Supreme Court will hear a similar case someday, but it looks like it won’t be Tenenbaum. The only thing he can do is keep on fighting or just settle. Considering that the RIAA seems to spare no expense when it comes to court battles, I’m putting my money on a settlement happening anytime soon.
We’ve reached out to Nesson for comment and we’ll update this story if we hear anything back.
Nesson got back to us and provided this short comment:
“Back to the district court for judge to consider remitting the verdict to a reasonable amount.”