Judge Slashes "Unconstitutionally Excessive" File Sharing Fine By 90%

Last summer, a Boston University graduate student was ordered to pay $670,000 in damages for illegally downloading 30 songs. Yesterday, US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said that was ludicrous and reduced it to $67,000. Thank God.

Even that reduced number, she wrote in her decision, is "severe, even harsh." She hopes the reduced damages will serve a dual purpose: showing downloaders that illegal file sharing will have significant financial consequences, but also sending a message that the constitution protects ordinary people from excessive punishment just as much as it protects record companies and their copyright claims.

The Boston Globe points out that this is only the second file-sharing case to reach the federal level; a judge reduced a Minnesota woman's fine from $1.9 million to $54,000 last year.

In their response to yesterday's decision, the buffoons at the RIAA exhibited their usual buffoonery, claiming that Gertner's ruling ignored the "profound economic and artistic harm" to their artists. They plan to contest the decision.

And while the decision is definitely a small victory for file-sharers everywhere, the downloader in question wasn't too thrilled about his reduced penalty. "It's basically equally unpayable to me," he said. [Boston.com]