The right to due process limits an award of punitive damages to, oh, about 10 times the amount of actual damages. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408 (2003).
Does the same 10x cap apply to a verdict falling within a range that Congress set by statute?
No, it doesn't, the First Circuit held today.
The ruling came in a copyright infringement case against Joel Tenenbaum, a serial willful down-loader of music files. Tenenbaum mounted a "fair use" defense. It fell flat. How flat? So flat that a tech blogger blasted the lawyers for "their dreadful handling of the case."
So flat that the Boston jury hit Tenenbaum with $22,500 per offense — well within the $750 to $150,000 statutory range. The First Circuit "d[id] not hesitate" in holding that the $675,000 award for stealing 30 songs passed constitutional must (under the fifth and fourteenth amendments' due process clauses). Sony BMG Music Ent't v. Tenenbaum, No. 12-2146 (1st Cir. June 25, 2013).