Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Show Trials

Those interested in legal horror may want to watch the unfolding Joel Tenenbaum case on Ars Technica.

The summary goes something like this. Tenenbaum did a whole lot of music sharing on Kazaa over the span of a few years -- that much is not in dispute, he has admitted to it. The RIAA (the legal attack dogs of the recording industry) went after him, as a pretty easy target. He hired as his lawyer Charles Nesson, a Harvard Law professor who is determined to Make A Statement about the whole thing.

It's been gradually unfolding for months, and has finally come to trial -- I expect Ars to cover the mess in gory detail. Suffice it to say, Nesson has already driven the judge practically to distraction with bizarre filings and extreme legal interpretations -- just before the case went to trial, the judge summarily decided to throw out his argument that sharing music online was simply "fair use", and can't be prosecuted. (An argument more extreme than the worst fair use excuses I've heard in the SCA.) He has a talent for publicity, and shows lots of flair for it -- his opening statement is reportedly going to involve a Styrofoam box that will be used to illustrate the difference between bits and atoms -- but so far hasn't shown much understanding of how one actually wins a court case.

I kind of feel sorry for Tenenbaum, who is mostly the MacGuffin for a trial that is likely to largely feature the RIAA talking about law and Nesson talking about music sharing as a basic human right. I see little likelihood that he will be acquitted, and a good chance that the jury will get annoyed enough by the theatrics to throw the book at him (as they did in the Jammie Thomas trial a few weeks ago, whomping her with a bill of almost $2 million dollars for illegal downloading). I really wonder whether he understands the noose he's placed his neck in...
Tags: law, technology

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