Stop Recording Industry Association from Collecting $675,000 Fine from Teen Downloading Music

Target: Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

Goal: Do not make 16-year-old Joel Tenenbaum pay $675,000 fine for downloading 31 songs

In 2005, the RIAA filed a suit against then-16-year-old Joel Tenenbaum for illegally downloading and sharing music on the peer-to-peer file-sharing network, Kazaa. The court battle has finally come to an end and Tenenbaum, now 23, has been issued a $675,000 fine ($22,500 for each of the 31 songs he downloaded). Apparently, this was on the “low end of the range—only 15% of the statutory minimum”; Tenenbaum could have potentially faced a fine as high as $4.65 million.

When asked to comment, the RIAA deferred to the official text of the decision, which “speaks for itself.” The text tells a story the RIAA and its attempts to make an example of Tenenbaum for minor infractions he committed as a teenager. Regardless of what the maximum penalty could have been, the fines levied against Tenenbaum are clearly disproportionate to any “damages” his actions might have caused to the music industry.

In the trial, the RIAA made the standard arguments—that P2P file sharing results in loss of revenue for both the recording industry and the artist. However, anyone with even a vague understanding of how file sharing works can look at the current state of the music industry and see that the RIAA’s claims have been greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, jurors with experience obtaining music online were specifically excluded from participating. Thus, the jury that made the final decision in Tenenbaum’s case was not representative of his peers and lacked the context necessary to make a fair decision.

This case is a prime example of the petty greed that fuels the RIAA and corporations like it. Even if illegally downloading and sharing music online is, by definition, illegal, the punishment Tenenbaum faces is excessive. Joel Tenenbaum was 16 when this debacle started; now he’s 23, starting his life $675,000+ in debt with a black mark on his record for the crime of downloading 31 songs in 2005. The music industry, on the other hand, has remained relatively unaffected by Tenenbaum’s actions.

Do not allow the RIAA to effectively ruin a young man’s life. Sign this petition to express your opposition to its actions.


Dear RIAA,

Your opposition to online piracy is understandable from a business standpoint. However, concerns of lost revenue have been empirically proven false; in fact, the same arguments were raised against cassette tapes and CDs, yet the music industry remains largely unaffected.

The question at hand is not, “Were Joel Tenenbaum’s actions illegal?” They were—pirating copyrighted media is illegal. The controversy stems from whether or not the punishment Joel Tenenbaum currently faces fits the crime he committed—it does not; the negligible amount of financial damage allegedly inflicted on the music industry in no way warrants such a harsh penalty.

$675,000 is a drop in the bucket for the music industry, but for the average person, a fine that large would financially cripple them for the rest of their lives. It is clearly unreasonable to hold a 23-year old financially responsible 31 times over for revenue lost by an industry worth billions of dollars.


[Your name here]

Photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via flickr

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One Comment

  1. The music industry has way too much power

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