Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Gertner nixes Barlow as Tenenbaum expert: no 'philosophical pronouncements' from the stand

Judge Nancy Gertner has soundly rejected Joel Tenenbaum's effort to have John Perry Barlow testify as an expert at his July 27 trial, finding the former Grateful Dead lyricist's "[p]hilosophical pronouncements" about the music business an improper subject for expert testimony. Judge Gertner also rejected Barlow's Rule 26 disclosure as inadequate, saying the document "does not come close to th[e] threshold" requirement that it "offer...opinions in a manner that enables the opposing party to prepare adequately for trial." Judge Gertner did not address the plaintiffs' argument that Barlow's disclosure was untimely; nor does her order mention the plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees.

Judge Gertner's ruling bodes very ill for the admissibility of the purported expert opinions of Brandeis University enthnomusicologist Wayne Marshall (Tenenbaum's counsel's son-in-law), whose report cites, among others, French literary critic and philosopher Roland Barthes.

Here's Judge Gertner's full order:
Judge Nancy Gertner: Electronic ORDER entered granting [855] Motion to Strike. "The Plaintiffs' Motion to Exclude Defendant's Expert John Perry Barlow [855] is GRANTED. The Defendant has indicated that no supplemental Expert Report will be forthcoming, therefore the Court considers the Amended Declaration presently before it (document # 855-2). This report indicates that Mr. Barlow proposes to testify on two main subjects relating to the "fairness of peer-to-peer file sharing in the context of the recording industry": (1) the impact of file sharing on the music industry's business model; and (2) how peer-to-peer technology furthers a fundamental human need to "share art." Id. at 2. Philosophical pronouncements like those in the latter category are not within the scope of expert testimony and the Court cannot give them the imprimatur of "expertise" at trial. Counsel for the Defendant analogized Barlow to the truck driver who offers expert testimony in an accident case on such things as the impact of a load shifting while driving. The analogy is misplaced: If Barlow were to testify about the creative process in which he has been engaged, that would be a matter of expertise drawn from experience. But he seeks to testify about market conditions, on the one hand, and philosophy and policy on the other. The truck driver who is an expert about trucking would not be permitted to testify, for example, about either existentialism or GM's bankruptcy. At most, the policy-judgments that Barlow intends to present may be better suited to testimony before Congress than testimony before a jury. If appropriate anywhere in the courtroom -- a question which the Court reserves -- these considerations belong in counsel's closing argument. With respect to the concrete impact of file sharing on the music industry, Barlow has not identified any data or publication that will support his views, nor does he describe in any depth the conclusions that he would draw from his "personal experiences in the music industry." Id. As a result, he has not provided the Plaintiffs with any basis on which they might examine him. Most notably, Barlow's four-page report fails to include "a complete statement of all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them," and "the data or other information considered by the witness in forming them." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(a)(2)(B). It is not enough for Barlow to state that he will rely on his personal experience to testify broadly about a number of topics related to file sharing; an expert must actually disclose the testimony he intends to offer at trial, as completely as possible, and the specific foundation for his opinions. See Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 641 (7th Cir. 2008). The Rules of Civil Procedure require Barlow to offer those opinions in a manner that enables the opposing party to prepare adequately for trial. The Amended Declaration does not come close to that threshold, and therefore he is excluded as an expert pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(c)(1)." (Gaudet, Jennifer)

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