RIAA hearing begins in Boston

A trial between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and just the second person to go to trial after receiving a John Doe lawsuit for sharing copyrighted music tracks has started in Boston, Massachusetts.

Legal experts, despite the legal fire power of Harvard University professor Charles Nesson, believe 25-year-old Boston University Student Joel Tenenbaum will face the same ouotcome as Jammie Thomas-Rasset.

Prior to jury selection, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner rejected Nesson’s fair use legal defense.  According to the defendant he had a fair use right to provide RIAA copyrighted music through the Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing network — Tenenbaum was just “a kid who did what kids do” while offering to share the music tracks.

gavelDuring the hearing, Nesson used  a piece of plastic foam wrapped in tape — symbolizing CDs that the RIAA sold before digital music, then he began to cut the foam into dozens of small pieces.

“You have the ability to share, and this physical object” — the 71-year-old professor paused as he snipped with the scissors — “suddenly broke into a million bits. Here it is. Bits. Can you hold a bit in your hand? You can’t … And suddenly, you have songs being shared by millions of kids around the world.”

RIAA attorney Tim Reynolds told the court that unauthorized file sharing over P2P networks hurts the music industry.

This marks just the second time a person chose to go to trial against the RIAA.  The first defendant, Thomas-Rasset, lost the case and now must pay a whopping $1.92 million fine to the RIAA.  If Tenenbaum’s legal defense is already sinking, then it’s likely he’ll also face a stiff penalty at the conclusion of the hearing.

More than 30,000 people elected to simply settle out of court with the RIAA, turning over about $5,000 in each case.  RIAA critics said the trade group pressured many people into paying the  fine without considering all legal options.