To the tune of a million dollars

Global recording companies are suing a U.S. student for allegedly downloading 7 songs from a file-sharing website. The music lover could end up paying a high price for his passion - US$1.5 million

A hero of our time, a victim, or a criminal? RT re-visits Joel Tenenbaum – a student who is being sued by major U.S. record companies for downloading several songs off the Internet without paying for them.

The record labels who are going after Joel are about to hit a key stage in their court pursuit, which has been going on for the last 6 years.

My life is derailed because of this. I should be working, doing my research as opposed to fighting the 4 biggest record companies in the country for money that we really don’t think I owe them,” says Joel Tenenbaum.

Joel’s legal team is a group of Harvard law students and a professor, who are helping the music fan fight back. To them, winning the case is as important as having the people of America being aware and speaking up for their rights.

“If we’ve already won partway in the court of public opinion, then at least we’ve won part of the battle,” says Debbie Rosenbaum, one of Joel's lawyers.

Over the last several years, more than 30 thousand people have been pursued by the music industry for illegally downloading music off the web. The majority of the cases stay secret, since people don’t want their private information disclosed in an endless legal procedure.

“There’s a whole lot of room for abuse. I have personally been what I would call abused. They have been at my home at 6 in the morning, trying to serve me papers. They have called me at all hours of the day, trying to talk to me. They have tried to harass me, they have done this to Joel and this is regular and repeated," says Judy Tenenbaum, Joel’s mother.

Hearing after hearing, Joel’s only hope is that a win in court will set a precedent for other music lovers. Attempts to have the trial webcast for the first time in U.S. history, to get millions of people involved, have been denied by the court.

This case of a regular Boston university student has dragged on for years. Its eventual outcome may make Joel and his family bankrupt. Still, he and his team just want this nightmare to end.

For now, the trial is expected to take place in July.