The RIAA Teaches a Lesson Online

You know that the RIAA has been suing folks for illegal downloads, but have you ever seen what happens inside the courtroom?  It's easy to say, "That would never happen to me," but it's another thing entirely to see a defendant squirm on the witness stand.

In a ruling issued Thursday, a U.S. District Court judge is allowing a live video stream from the copyright infringement case of the RIAA against Joel Tenenbaum, a 25-year-old doctoral student from Boston University. The maximum fine in the case could exceed $1 million.

The video stream will be available online, free to the public, provided by Courtroom View Network. This was actually initiated by the lawyer for the defendant. From the New York Times: Harvard law prof Charles Nesson told Computerworld that he asked the court to allow Internet viewers to see the proceedings for several reasons. For one, the coverage will allow a much broader Internet audience "to see what's at stake and just how out of proportion the [RIAA's] response is to the supposed infraction," he said. "It can be very constructive. The copyright issue really is the dividing line between the digital generation and the old guard."

"[Tenenbaum] is a representative of the Internet generation," Nesson said. "We feel we represent the Internet in the courtroom." This is the first time that live Internet streaming has been allowed in a federal courtroom, he said.

What do you think? Does this show the heavy hand of the RIAA, or make real the consequences involved with illegally stealing music? The more interesting question: does it matter how you feel about it? If it's illegal, shouldn't it be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? --Leslie Shapiro

The New York Times