Friday, February 20, 2009

Labels ask that Feb. 24 Tenenbaum hearing proceed without webcast

The plaintiffs in the record labels' suit against accused peer-to-peer infringer Joel Tenenbaum have asked the District Court to proceed with a scheduled February 24 motion hearing, despite the fact that the First Circuit will not by then have ruled whether that hearing may be webcast. District Judge Nancy Gertner has permitted the webcast, but the plaintiffs have appealed, and earlier this week, the First Circuit stayed the webcast order and set a hearing date of April 7.

In their "Request for Hearing" filed today, the plaintiffs point out that there are a total of 6 pending motions in the case, and that there is no reason to delay a hearing on those motions solely because of the webcast issue, which they describe as "collateral." Plaintiffs also complain that Tenenbaum has not complied with numerous pending discovery requests over long periods of time.

UPDATE:  Tenenbaum has now asked the District Court to hear several of the pending motions on Feb. 24 (without the webcast), but to postpone the hearing on his Motion for Leave to File Amended Counterclaim until after the First Circuit has ruled on the webcast issue. 

I think the labels' request that the entire Feb. 24 hearing proceed as scheduled is well taken. I have made clear that I support the webcast. But I agree that the webcast issue is "collateral"; it's minor compared to the basic copyright disputes in the case. And let's remember what is actually at stake here:  if the hearing proceeds without the webcast, it will simply be like virtually all hearings in federal court: completely open to the press and public, only with no recording or broadcasting permitted. It has been reported that the webcast would be the first ever, and, while the webcast would be a helpful way for those of us not in Boston to get a better sense of the oral argument, reading a transcript afterwards would not be the end of the world.

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