Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Review -- "RIAA defendant enlists Harvard Law prof, students"

For direct link to article, click entry title.

Here's an interesting one concerning a man named Joel Tenenbaum sticking it to the RIAA. Indicted last year of exchanging a handful of songs over KaZaA, and outraged about how far the RIAA is taking his act of "thievery", Tenenbaum called to aid a team consisting of law professor and a class of cyberlaw students - such as ourselves!, except that they're all from Harvard University - to represent him in the trial. The grounds on which Tenenbaum's legal team makes their case is that the RIAA's legal crusade against piracy is getting out of hand to the point of un-constitionality, and therefore a federal decision should be made placing strict boundaries on what the RIAA can and cannot do. When I read this, all that came to mind was an image of a criminal telling off the police for doing their job too well. I mean, as dislikeable as the RIAA is, I think Tenenbaum is getting a little ahead of himself.. That's just me, I guess.

The Harvard team is not only taking this case on to represent Tenenbaum, but also for an exponentially more ambitious reason: they want to challenge the entirety of the piracy lawsuit campaign against what they call the "born-digital generation". The concept of today's generation as the "born-digital" generation has been introduced in a few readings we've gone over and discussed in class. One that resonates particularly well with that theme is the ever-visited "Pirate's Dilemma" by Matt Mason. I think it's true that the copyright regulations of the past are undeniably dated and inapplicable to today's technology-centered, file-sharing, open-source, P2P culture, and I suppose Harvard agrees with me! I'm blushing, really. I feel like it is an overwhelming task for this university group to tackle the foundations of current copyright laws, but their attempt is laudatory in the sense that this case might get the ball rolling to revamp the whole of property laws fit for this generation and those to come.

Apparently, how the defense presented themselves was nothing short of what is expected of Harvard minds. The 3 essential components of their argument were as follows:
1) The damage costs the RIAA chargesunds of the Constitution (by which all lines of legality are supposed to follow). each defendant are "simply excessive", and therefore in violation of the 14h Amendment of the Constitution. (For all you shmucks, it outlines the details of due process and equal protection under the law)
2) The trying of the theft of music or any other copyrighted property is ultimately a criminal case, and Congress, basically gave prosecutorial authority to a private law force, AKA the music industry, an action not within the bo
3) Since the cases are criminal, they should not be tried under the standards of civil law.

The Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson draws attention to another point: RIAA's legal campaign seems to focus on sending a message through punishing those who are caught pirating music (to deter others from doing the same), rather than punishing the actual criminal for his actual crime. Get it? I think that this is the most powerful argument Tenenbaum's team has. The campaign really can be made analagous to the Crusades, both in the RIAA's method of enforcing itself upon the populace and the reaction of said peoples. It's not like making a demonstration out of Tenenbaum is going to stop the average person from downloading Razorlight's 3rd album (that came out Nov. 3!!!) from LimeWire or BearShare or BitTorrent or whatever other P2P program they use to obtain music without paying for it.

In any case, good luck to Tenenbaum and Harvard team. The trail is scheduled for December.

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