Thursday, July 09, 2009

RIAA object to Nesson recordings

I don't think I quite appreciated the depth of the RIAA's animosity towards Charles Nesson, the founder of the Berkman Center at Harvard, until very recently. It's well known that Nesson is defending Joel Tenenbaum in the case for p2p copyright infringement brought against him by the RIAA. He is also using it as a case for his students to observe the US legal system in real time, something the opposition attorneys are not too keen on. The latest development in the case is that the RIAA are reportedly asking the judge in the case to order Nesson to remove “unauthorized and illegal recordings” of pretrial hearings and depositions from the net.

I was prompted by the story to listen, for the first time, to Nesson's recording of Tenenbaum's deposition in September 2008 (available at the Berkman Center).

Right from the start it is clear the RIAA lawyer doing the main questioning is trying to deconstruct Nesson's involvement in the case, presumably to gather evidence for the courtroom battles to come. The emotion in the voices of both the RIAA supervising attorney and in-house counsel - and this is purely subjective perspective on my part - displays more than simple irritation with Tanenbaum and Nesson. The in-house counsel got particularly annoyed at one point when declaring that Nesson didn't seem to appreciate that many people were getting laid-off every year because of lost sales due to file-sharing and that was who he was fighting for. In fairness to him he seemed genuinely upset at the job losses and committed to his desparate attempts to stem the flow by pursuing file sharers through the courts.

But in spite of drm, draconian copyright laws, monster lawsuits, lack of interoperability, Apple's oliopoly on online music sales, electronic files are unlikely to get harder to copy and distribute because computers are continually getter faster, storage is getting cheaper and more compact and internet pipes are getting fatter. So the RIAA has to find a new strategy, beyond litigation, to work with the technology to monetize their wares - more competition in cheap, reliable, convenient, clean, comprehensive catalogue of online music sales. Convenient, clean and reasonably priced will beat free every time.

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