Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson Takes On The RIAA

Posted Nov 19, 2008

Charles Nesson is a Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School and Founder/Faculty Co-Director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.  Nesson is also doing what many song downloaders would praise in legal fights with the RIAA.

Nesson is defending a Boston University undergraduate student in a case where the student is being taken to court for downloading copyrighted music.  Nesson is seeking out to prove that the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional.  The RIAA uses this law as civil enforcement and to intimidate people into settling out of court.  Nesson believes that this method abuses the legal process.

Nesson’s goal is to “turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency [Wired].”  Thus far only one case in relation to copyrighted music downloading has been taken to trial.  All other circumstances have been settled out of court.

Joel Tenenbaum is the graduate student being represented by Nesson.  Tenenbaum was sharing 816 music files on Kazaa in 2004.  He offered to settle with $500, but the RIAA demanded $12,000 instead.  If Tenenbaum’s actions were willful, he could be forced to pay $1 million.

Nesson believes that there are ways that the record industry could deter piracy without demanding large rewards from file sharing individuals.  The RIAA could provide music for free, but bundle it with ads.

[image credit: Harvard.edu]