RIAA court cases are few and far between. The cost of attorneys usually makes hiring one a costly alternative in comparison to the settlement money that they ask from alleged infringers. Thus far, only one case has actually gone to trial, resulting in a heavy judgment against the defendant, Jammie Thomas. While that case has been declared a mistrial, it has not stopped other cases from going ahead.
One of the cases vying to be the first to go all the way for a standing decision, is the case involving Boston University student Joel Tenenbaum. After initially offering to settle for $500, and having it rejected back in 2003, he decided to fight. His case has proved quite a headache for the RIAA by all accounts. Starting with a counterclaim asserting abuse of federal power, and that the damages demanded were unconstitutional, it has eventually gone to court after several settlement attempts. In court Joel is assisted by Professor Charles Nesson, and his law students.
In the Thomas case, the lawyer involved wasn’t particularly enthusiastic nor experienced in this area, and it showed. The same can’t be said of Prof. Nesson, who is a Harvard law professor as well as Founder and Co-Director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. In what might be considered a coup, he convinced the judge to allow the trial to be webcast on the Internet. This will allow others to see just how the lawyers act in a case. Yet, in the last few hours, it has been revealed that the RIAA has appealed the motion, clearly upset that it might harm their public image further.
It’s hard to see how it can though, when the RIAA makes statements on the case that do nothing to generate goodwill. RIAA’s Cara Duckworth said in a statement, “While this might be an interesting academic exercise for the professor and his class, there’s been real world consequences for those who create music.” Clearly little things like following the law are second place to their revenue steam, and how DARE the defense bother to fight the case against them. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to the webcast.