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Supreme Court rejects case on fines for illegal Internet music downloads

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take a case concerning big fines for illegal downloads of music on the Internet. A teenager had sought lower fines, claiming she didn't know it was illegal.


The US Supreme Court is seen in this October 1 file photo in Washington, DC.

Paul J. Richards/AFP Photo/File/Newscom

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The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case examining the extent to which those accused of illegally downloading copyrighted material from the Internet may claim the protection of an "innocent infringement" provision.

The issues arose in the case of a Texas teenager who was sued by an association of record companies for allegedly downloading 37 copyrighted songs onto her computer without paying for them.

Under the law, 16-year-old Whitney Harper faced a fine of up to $750 for each downloaded song. She argued that she was not aware that the file-sharing program on her computer was dealing in stolen property. She said she thought the songs could be downloaded for free, just like listening to the radio on the Internet.

In instances when a song is downloaded by someone who did not know she was infringing a copy right, the law provides for a $200 fine per song. Whitney admitted that she downloaded the music, but she said her actions were innocent and that her fine should be $200 per song.

A federal judge agreed. But a panel of the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision.


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