Blown To Bits

Hearing in Music Downloading Case to be Webcast

Thursday, January 15th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

In a precedent-breaking ruling, Federal Judge Nancy Gertner will allow next week’s hearing in the case of Joel Tenebaum to be webcast. You’ll be able to view it via the website of the Berkman Center. This is the case (previously blogged here) in which Harvard Professor Charles Nesson is arguing that the copyright statute is unconstitutional because it is excessively punitive, — essentially a criminal statute in the garb of civil law. The decision includes some perspectives not usually penned by federal judges:

In many ways, this case is about the so-called Internet Generation — the generation that has grown up with computer technology in general, and the Internet in particular, as commonplace. It is reportedly a generation that does not read newspapers or watch the evening news, but gets its information largely, if almost exclusively, over the Internet.

The recording industry was not amused by Nesson’s request, stating that he made it “to influence the proceedings themselves and to increase the Defendant’s and his counsel’s notoriety.” Judge Gertner takes up the RIAA’s objections:

While the Plaintiffs object to the narrowcasting of this proceeding, … their objections are curious. At previous hearings and status conferences, the Plaintiffs have represented that they initiated these lawsuits not because they believe they will identify every person illegally downloading copyrighted material.  Rather, they believe that the lawsuits will deter the Defendants and the wider public from engaging in illegal file-sharing activities.  Their strategy effectively relies on the publicity resulting from this litigation.

This case is going to be interesting to watch — the stakes are very high for the industry, and rulings like this will be scrutinized for patterns in the tea leaves.

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