But I think the focus on the PR campaign -- rather than about how the team, and its leader, Prof. Charles Nesson, are actually litigating the case -- is telling. Rosenbaum is quoted making an obligatory nod to substance:
Public relations won't make the legal arguments any sharper, and Rosenbaum knows that the group can't afford to get caught up in a media circus and neglect the case at hand. "Defending Joel in court is paramount," she says. "We never lose sight of that."But I'm afraid that the facts don't bear out Rosenbaum's claim. Put aside for a moment the merits of the team's counterclaims, which the article briefly mentions. (For the record, I think that the arguments about excessive statutory damages are wrong under current law, and the claim that "these are essentially criminal cases and Congress has unconstitutionally delegated prosecutorial power to a 'private police force' (the music business)" is patently frivolous.) Rather, let's focus on how Nesson and his team have actually litigated the case. In the 4 1/2 months since Nesson took over, the following has occurred:
1) The plaintiffs took Tenenbaum's deposition, during which Nesson made completely meritless privilege objections and Tenenbaum himself put in such a poor performance that even one of his defenders called it "painful."
2) Nesson noticed the deposition of recording industry litigation attorney Matt Oppenheim, setting the location as a law school auditorium -- a sleazy stunt that no real litigator would pull. And he appears to have completely flubbed the deposition notice procedures, setting himself up as a legitimate target for a sanctions motion.
3) Tenenbaum's team filed an appellate brief on the webcast issue that is, to be blunt, worthless. It contains only about a page and a half of actual argument, and it doesn't cite a single case. I don't know if Harvard gives grades for moot court; I do know that if they do, and students turned in a brief like the one they wrote for the First Circuit, they would fail. That they actually filed it in the First Circuit is shocking; I suspect that the judges will not be amused.
Law professors and their students can be great litigators; if they're great enough, Hollywood can even come calling. But a cool Twitter feed and a nice web site can't compensate for lousy litigation tactics of the type Tenenbaum's team has displayed.
CLARIFICATION: an earlier version of this post said that the Ars Techica article "focuses on the team's PR efforts." While the article does include extensive discussion of this topic, my characterization was based on my following a link only to page 3 of the article; I didn't realize there was a page 1 and 2 that focused on other aspects of the case. I've fixed this in the text and the link to the article. My apologies to Ars.