Legendary Harvard law prof fights constitutionality of RIAA lawsuits

The formidable Charlie Nesson, founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and all-round good-guy law-prof, has taken up the defense of a Boston University student who's been sued for file-sharing. Nesson is arguing against the constitutionality of the record companies' lawsuits, in a winner-take-all suit that could force the RIAA to come up with a better answer than "sue your customers" (remember, the biggest file-sharers are also the biggest music-buyers, concert-goers, etc -- being a music superfan meansyou do more of everything to do with music).
Nesson argues that the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional because it effectively lets a private group – the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA – carry out civil enforcement of a criminal law. He also says the music industry group abused the legal process by brandishing the prospects of lengthy and costly lawsuits in an effort to intimidate people into settling cases out of court.

Nesson, the founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said in an interview that his goal is to "turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency."

Nesson is best known for defending the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers and for consulting on the case against chemical companies that was depicted in the film "A Civil Action." His challenge against the music labels, made in U.S. District Court in Boston, is one of the most determined attempts to derail the industry's flurry of litigation.

Go Charlie!

Law professor fires back at song-swapping lawsuits (Thanks, Michaelann and everyone else who sent this in!)

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  1. I would have to review the complaint, but I would note that pursuant to statute, cable companies routinely sue for unauthorized access based on no more than proof of purchase of a cable descrambler box. Sometimes they recoup large sums from the offender. Similarly, people arrested for shoplifting frequently run afoul of similar statutes permitting the store to sue for the value of the stolen item, plus costs and fees, even if the item is recovered and returned. These, and like examples, mean to me that the argument against the RIAA lawsuits will be very difficult. This type of statute is not without precedent, as we say.

    But I wish him luck with it. You never know.

  2. If you are interested in reading an account of someone fighting in the trenches against the RIAA, I cannot reccomend Ray Beckerman’s blog enough. He’s an example of the kind of lawyer people make movies about.

    Like Groklaw did with the SCO lawsuit, he’s publishing every document and filing he can get his hands on.

    http://recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com/

  3. It’s about time.

    The RIAA is honestly using mob tactics to shake down consumers for money. Someone should pull a Rico Act lawsuit on their ass.

  4. It’s about time.

    The RIAA is honestly using mob tactics to shake down consumers for money. Someone should pull a Rico Act lawsuit on their ass.

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