Tenenbaum, the Pirates and the BC Dash

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Chalk up another win up for the RIAA. Last week, the record industry organization won its second victory in their war against illegal downloading. On Friday, a court ruled in favor of the RIAA in a lawsuit brought against Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum. Tenenbaum was ordered to pay $675,000 in damages, or $22,500 for each of the 30 songs he stole.

The case grew in media attention last year when Harvard Professor, and renowned litigator, Charles Nesson agreed to represent Tenenbaum. Nesson's legal argument was that Tenenbaum was protected under Fair Use. Fair Use is a doctrine in the U.S. copyright law that allows for copyrighted material to be used for critical or academic purposes. The case managed to steer some hope to the downloading masses, who saw this as a step toward changing copyright laws and sharing more content on the Web.

But the judge forbid the Fair Use defense, which left the Tenenbaum team with very little strategy. The result was a guilty verdict.

Joel can be reassured by the fact that he got off "easy." Jamie Thomas, the defendant in the only other RIAA lawsuit, was found guilty of illegally downloading and sharing 24 songs on Kazaa. Her jury attached an $79,000 price tag to each song, which amounted to $1.9 million in total damages.

After the case, Joel told reporters that he was disappointed, but not surprised by the verdict. He also announced he would have to file for bankruptcy if the award stands.

I can't imagine how the RIAA can celebrate this victory. Think of all the money spent on these lawsuits, just to make examples out of two downloaders, who enjoyed 54 songs. What a waste of our judicial system.

And in related news, Peter Sunde, founder of the illegal bit torrent site, Pirate Bay, has stepped down. He publicly announced on his blog that "I want to focus my energy in a different direction. I have projects waiting to be finished, a book is waiting to be finalized and many more books are waiting to be read."

Back in April the three founders of the popular site were convicted for copyright infringement and sentenced to a year in prison and a $3.6 million fine. Pirate Bay was once the kingpin of online downloading but now it seems to be a sinking ship. There has been legal trouble with lawsuits from Italy, as well as a Dutch court order forcing Pirate Bay out of Netherland internet traffic. Hopes were raised high several weeks ago, when Global Gaming X announced it was buying The Pirate Bay for almost $8 million, but the deal fizzled out before it was finalized.

The other major news this is week that Big Champagne, the entertainment monitoring organization, has released the BC Dash.

The BC Dash is an online metrics program that allows you to see how your song is selling at digital retail, how it is playing on Internet radio stations and how it is being shared on illegal file share services. They provide real time data with charts, graphs and other relevant metrics.

Information is power and in a digital age, information reigns supreme. The program has the potential to transform the way the record business feels about marketing music, and it's long overdue.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.