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£425,000 downloaded music appeal rejected

A former university student who was ordered to pay 675,000 dollars (£425,000) for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the internet says he will continue fighting the penalty, despite the US Supreme Court's refusal to hear his appeal.

Joel Tenenbaum, 28, of Providence, Rhode Island, said he is hoping a federal judge will reduce the amount.

The former Boston University student said: "I can't believe the system would uphold a six-figure damages amount for downloading 30 songs on a file-sharing system that everybody used. I can't believe the court would uphold something that ludicrous."

A jury ordered Tenenbaum to pay 675,000 dollars, or 22,500 dollars per song, in 2009 after the Recording Industry Association of America sued him on behalf of four record labels, including Sony BMG Music Entertainment and Warner Brothers Records.

A US federal judge called the penalty unconstitutionally excessive and reduced the award to 67,500 dollars, but the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals later reinstated it.

The 1st Circuit said a new judge assigned to the case could reduce the award again, but the record labels would then be entitled to a new trial.

Tenenbaum, who graduated from the university yesterday with a doctorate in statistical physics, said he does not have the money to pay the judgment.

"I've been working on a graduate student's stipend for six years now and I have no such money," he said.

Tenenbaum argued that the US Copyright Act is unconstitutional and Congress did not intend the law to impose liability or damages when the copyright infringements amount to "consumer copying".

During the trial, Tenenbaum admitted he downloaded and shared hundreds of songs by Green Day, Nirvana, the Smashing Pumpkins and others.

His lawyer suggested the damages should be as little as 99 cents per song, about the same amount Tenenbaum would have to pay for a legal online song purchase.

Lawyers for the recording industry argued that illegal downloading hurt the recording industry by reducing income and profits. A lawyer for the recording labels described Tenenbaum as a "hardcore" copyright infringer.

RIAA spokeswoman Cara Duckworth said after today's Supreme Court announcement: "We're pleased with this decision."

In the only other music-downloading case against an individual to go to trial, a US judge reduced the penalty imposed on a Minnesota woman from 1.5 million dollars to 54,000 dollars.

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