Boston - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal appeals court today to allow the live webcasting of a hearing in one of the thousands of lawsuits that have been brought against users of peer-to-peer file-sharing systems.
The District Court granted defendant Joel Tenenbaum's request to allow an upcoming hearing to be webcast on the website of the Berkman Center at Harvard. The record company plaintiffs have now asked the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to block the webcast.
"The record companies have long maintained that they brought these lawsuits against ordinary users to start a national conversation about peer-to-peer file-sharing," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "What better way is there for the public to learn what the record companies are doing than by seeing for themselves what happens in these lawsuits?"
In the amicus brief filed today, EFF -- representing a coalition of media and public interest nonprofits -- notes that the RIAA litigation campaign has elicited strong opinions and passions on both sides, making this case a good one for an initial experiment in webcasting federal district court proceedings. EFF's brief was also signed by Public.Resource.org and the Internet Archive, both of which have offered to host the webcast in addition to the Berkman Center.
Also joining EFF's coalition is Ben Sheffner of the "Copyrights & Campaigns" blog, who supports the views of copyright owners. Mr. Sheffner notes that, because he lives in Los Angeles, the availability of a live webcast would greatly enhance his ability to provide his readers with a full picture of what occurs at the hearing, without having to rely on accounts in other publications that he believes are biased against the plaintiffs.
Other signers to the EFF amicus brief include the Media Access Project, Free Press, and the California First Amendment Coalition.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) recently announced that it had stopped filing new lawsuits against individual file-sharers. Yet it is continuing to pursue thousands of ongoing lawsuits like the one against Mr. Tenenbaum in the federal courts. Over the last five years, more than 35,000 people have been targeted in the RIAA's litigation campaign.
For the full amicus brief:
For more on the RIAA's lawsuit campaign:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Corrected 1/29/09 to clarify that the Berkman Center does not represent Mr. Tenebaum. His counsel is the case is Charlie Nesson.