Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Straight outta Berkeley: Joel Tenenbaum is no Rosa Parks!

Prof. Peter Menell of Berkeley Law School has a short but excellent article up on the web site of The Media Institute, making a point that it's bit ridiculous even needs to be made: Joel Tenenbaum is no Rosa Parks! Menell, author of one of the leading IP case books, flays Tenenbaum's defense of his decade-long peer-to-peer use, which Menell concludes "sought to disguise selfish motivation and self-righteous indignation at paying a penalty for violating copyright liability as a cynical and disingenuous social movement":
This was not a case involving political speech or transformative user-generated creativity. This was not a case of mistaken identity. Nor was it a case where the recording industry sought maximum damages; recall that the plaintiffs offered to settle up-front for $3,500 – reflective of the costs of investigation and enforcement, with some deterrent bite.

This was a case about not paying for sound recordings, not paying a justifiable penalty for not paying for sound recordings, and running up the costs of litigation though dishonesty and vexatious litigation. In the short run, this social movement promises that many music fans will have more money in their pockets and more sound recordings on their computers and portable devices; and that record labels, music publishers, recording artists, and composers will have less to show for their efforts and talents.

But in the longer run, Joel’s logic erodes the economic infrastructure of creators and the dynamic capacity of market institutions to build productive and reinforcing relationships between creators (not just composers and recording artists, but also authors and filmmakers) and fans. That is the purpose of copyright and it has provided critical support for composers and recording artists for a century; and authors for even longer.

It's kind of sad that this even needs to be said, but I'm glad Menell said it. Go read the whole thing.

(h/t Patrick Ross.)


  1. Again the mythic narrative that he sought them out. The notion that he never offered 5 grand to settle. Keep sip-sip-sipping the Kool Aid of the little scrawny kid chasing the bully.

  2. NWA and Rosa Parks in the same post!?

    You lawyer types are so clever in your deployment of African-American cultural symbols.


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