Thursday, January 29, 2009

C&C editor Sheffner asks First Circuit to allow Tenenbaum webcast; joins with EFF to urge courtroom electronic media access; hell freezes over

C&C is pleased to announce that its editor has signed onto an amicus brief authored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, urging the First Circuit to affirm an order by Judge Nancy Gertner permitting a live webcast of an important upcoming hearing in the record labels' copyright infringement against accused peer-to-peer infringer Joel Tenenbaum. The labels have sought a writ of mandamus or prohibition from the First Circuit, asking the Court of Appeals to block the webcast. The labels cite District of Massachusetts local rules they say disallow such a courtroom webcast, as well as their fear that if the webcast is allowed, "statements may be taken out of context, spliced together with other statements and []rebroadcast as if it were an accurate transcript."

The EFF brief that I joined points out that the record labels themselves have said that they launched their lawsuits against individual p2p infringers in part to generate awareness of the legal consequences of copyright infringement on the Internet, and RIAA President Cary Sherman has said he "welcome[s] [a] national conversation" on the issue. What better way to foster that conversation than to allow the public to listen to the legal arguments themselves, and let them draw their own conclusions as to who's right?

Just so there's no confusion: I support the labels' lawsuits, and think their legal arguments should, and will, prevail at the upcoming District Court hearing (now set for Feb. 24). I just think everyone who can't attend the Boston hearing in person (like me!) should have the opportunity to watch as well.

Thanks to the attorneys at EFF, including Kurt Opsahl, Cindy Cohn, and Fred von Lohmann, for their excellent work on the brief, which was also joined by, the Media Access Project, Internet Archive, Free Press, and the California First Amendment Coalition. I'm usually on the other side of EFF on copyright issues, but was very pleased to be able to cooperate with them here.

My additional Tenenbaum coverage is here.

And with this love-in out of the way, we can now return to our regularly scheduled disagreements over copyright law...

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