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Harvard Prof.'s hearing against RIAA can't be streamed online

Appeals court reverses web broadcast decision

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The local rules of the land will keep the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) free from having their high-profile case against Joel Tenenbaum broadcast live over the internet, a federal appeals court in Boston has ruled.

The First US Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked a trial judge from letting streaming coverage of the RIAA's lawsuit against the Boston University graduate, who's accused of illegally downloading and sharing songs on the Kazaa P2P network in 2004.

A three-judge panel said US District Judge Nancy Gertner's earlier decision to make an exception to a 1996 ban on the use of cameras in the circuit's courtrooms was "unprecedented," and "palpably incorrect."

The motion to stream proceedings on the web was proposed by Harvard Law School's increasingly erratic Charles Nesson and his gang of graduate students who are defending the accused P2P file-swapper. Nesson – who's adopted the unusual position that unlicensed P2P is "fair use" – claims the broadcast will show the public how the RIAA mistreats people it takes to court. The RIAA thinks Nesson's request is a self-serving stunt to make the trial a media circus.

In January, judge Gertner gave web cameras the nod, saying such a broadcast falls "squarely within the public interest." The RIAA appealed the decision claiming it violated federal court guidelines on cameras and threatened its right to a fair trial.

Judge Bruce Selya, who penned the appeals court opinion, appeared to sympathize with Gertner's decision in spirit, stating it's decision "is not a case about free speech writ large, nor about the guaranty of a fair trial, nor about any cognizable constitutional right of public access to the courts" but instead a confined enforcement of "the rule of law."

In a concurring opinion, Judge Kermit Lipez said the outcome was "disagreeable" and the rule banning online streaming should be reexamined.

A copy of the court's decision is available here. ®

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