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Illegal Downloads Follow Teen Into Adulthood, Court

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In New Hampshire's neighbor, Massachusetts, a federal district court upheld a $675,000 penalty against a Boston University grad student. The student admitted to downloading 31 pirated songs online as a teenager. And the very expensive downloads are today's last word in business.

Let's download the story from NPR's Steve Henn.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KILLING ME SOFTLY")

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: If you want to listen to the song "Killing Me Softly" by the Fugees, it'll cost you $1.29 on iTunes. But for Joel Tenenbaum, "Killing Me Softly" is going to cost a little bit more - $21,000. That because this song was one of 31 he put on an illegal, pirated playlist back in 2003.

Since then, Tenenbaum has gone to college, graduate school and wrote a Ph.D. dissertation in physics. But his youthful indiscretion has followed him into adulthood. The recording industry sued, won big, and last week a federal judge ruled the verdict will stand.

ERIC GOLDMAN: There is a very low chance that the recording industry will see any money.

HENN: Eric Goldman teaches law at Santa Clara University. He says the reason the recording industry won't see any cash is simple: Tenenbaum doesn't have it.

But the industry says this suit was always about more than money. They say Tenenbaum was downloading and distributing thousand of songs - and wouldn't stop, even after warnings from his father, his college and a cease and desist letter from Sony. And now, this student and music fan could be facing personal bankruptcy.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOSER")

INSKEEP: There is no risk of a penalty if you follow our tweets and Facebook posts. You can follow this program on Twitter @MORNINGEDITION. David Green is @nprgreene, with an E on the end. And I'm @nprinskeep.

That's the business news on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.
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