Discharge of Debt

23 May Would Joel Tennenbaum’s Napster Fine be Dischargeable in Bankruptcy?

Yesterday, May 22, 2012, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of the large damage award levied against Boston University student Joel Tennenbaum for downloading and sharing 30 songs on Napster. Wikipedia's summary of the case can be read here. First of all, this post is in the nature of a thought experiment; it is not legal advice for Mr. Tennenbaum nor anyone else. However, as a bankruptcy lawyer, the problem piqued my interest. The damage award against Mr. Tennenbaum for copyright infringement totaled $675,000 and, at the time, Mr. Tennenbaum was only an undergraduate student doing what tens of thousands of other college students had been doing at the time--using illegal file-sharing services to download and distribute music. As the jury found in Mr. Tennenbaum's case, these actions, despite their rampant popularity, violated federal copyright laws and, among other things, vested the music-industry plaintiff with the right to recover sizable statutory damages. Statutory damages under copyright laws are, for each act of infringement, $750 to $30,000 for non-willful infringements, and a range of $750 to $150,000 for willful infringements. In Mr. Tennenbaum's case, the jury was convinced to award damages of $22,500 for each infringement, for a total of $675,000. While Mr. Tennenbaum received a doctorate in statistical physics last week, he quite-understandably claims not to have the free cash to pay the judgment. So, could he file bankruptcy and discharge the judgment?
Read More

03 Feb Child Support Delinquency Will Hold Up Chapter 13 Discharge

All payments made to Chapter 13 trusteeIt is a real accomplishment to complete your Chapter 13 case. In an environment where jobs come and go, unexpected expenses can pop up and more than two-thirds of all Chapter 13 plans fail, anyone who fulfills the terms of his Chapter 13 plan should take pride in this milestone. Be aware, however, that making trustee payments for five years may not be enough to get your Chapter 13 discharge. As I previously wrote on this blog, every Chapter 13 debtor must obtain a Financial Management certificate and submit through counsel a certificate of completion for this post-filing educational course. If you do not submit the certificate, your case will be closed without the issuance of a discharge thereby potentially leaving your exposed to post-bankruptcy collection actions. If you choose to ask the court to reopen your case so that you can file the financial management certificate you will incur additional time and cost. A second possible hurdle arises from Bankruptcy Code Section 1328. This Code Section precludes the judge from issuing a discharge if you do not certify that all domestic support obligations that have come due during the pendency of your case have been paid. In the Northern District of Georgia, where I practice, every Chapter 13 debtor receives a Section 1328 certificate to complete as their case winds down.
Read More

31 Jan Top 15 Lies About Bankruptcy-Lie #1: Congress Ended Bankruptcy in 2005

Top 15 Lies About Bankruptcy Lie #1: Congress Ended Bankruptcy in 2005   Truth-o-Meter: Even though the 2005 amendments to the Bankruptcy Code known as "BAPCPA" were passed a long time ago, we are still hearing a lot of misinformation about this. Some of the worst falsehoods that bill...

Read More