RIAA Objects To Webcast In Downloading Case
Late Friday, the Recording Industry Association of America asked the First Circuit Court of Appeals to stay Judge Nancy Gertner's ruling allowing the Courtroom View Network to Webcast the next hearing in the lawsuit against grad student Joel Tenenbaum.
The RIAA argues that the Webcast could harm its case with the public because people might create misleading re-edits. "The broadcast of a court proceeding through the Internet will take on a life of its own in that forum," the group argued in its legal papers. "Statements may be taken out of context, spliced together with other statements, and rebroadcast as if it were an accurate transcript."
Tenenbaum's legal team, led by Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson, denounced the RIAA's position. "We believe that the true public interest in this case is permitting civil involvement in courtroom proceedings," the team said in a statement issued Sunday.
Tenenbaum, facing suit for allegedly sharing seven tracks, is among the more than 30,000 individuals targeted by the RIAA as part of a litigation campaign against suspected file-sharers. Late last year, the RIAA said it would stop suing individuals and instead work with Internet service providers to sanction alleged music sharers. But cases already in court, like the one against Tenenbaum, are continuing.
In its appeal, the record industry also takes issue with the portion of Gertner's ruling that authorizes Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society to subscribe to distribute the Webcast. The RIAA argues that Web site of Berkman Center--founded by Tenenbaum's lawyer, professor Charles Nesson--could bias viewers against the record industry because the site contains pro-defense material, like links to blog posts by Tenenbaum's legal team. "In the name of 'public interest,' the district court has directed the general public to a Web site replete with propaganda," the RIAA argued.
Tenenbaum's lawyers said Sunday they were working to find additional sites that would distribute the broadcast. They also noted that the Berkman Center's Web site includes a link to the RIAA's site.
The RIAA also argues to the appellate court that Gertner's order is unlawful because local court rules prohibit cameras or recording devices in courtrooms except in limited circumstances. Gertner wrote last week that local rules about cameras in the court authorized her to make exceptions at her discretion.
Last week, the RIAA asked Gertner not to authorize the Webcast, arguing that broadcasting the proceedings could taint a potential jury pool. She discounted the record industry's objections, noting that the RIAA has repeatedly said it sues non-commercial music sharers in order to dissuade people from file-sharing. "Their strategy effectively relies on the publicity resulting from this litigation," she wrote last Wednesday in her order authorizing the Internet broadcast.