How one music downloader's battle could change copyright law

Thomson Reuters News & Insight


In the age of iTunes and an-app-for-everything, Joel Tenenbaum's battle with the music industry over illegal downloading seems as relevant as an eight-track cassette.

Over the course of the litigation, Tenenbaum's testimony earned him some notoriety -- he blamed the downloading on burglars, a foster child and his sisters before finally fessing up -- but the digital-rights community continued to support his case. A friend-of-the-court brief supporting Tenenbaum's constitional arguments was co-authored by members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lobbying group, as well as Stanford and Berkeley law school's clinics on technology and public policy. Harvard law professor Charles Nesson, founder of the school's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, took Tenenbaum on as a client and has been representing him pro bono since 2008.

Now, as Tenenbaum's case enters its next stage, those advocates see a renewed opportunity to push for an answer on how copyright laws should be enforced.

"The system is outdated," said Jason Schultz, an assistant clinical professor of law at Berkeley and the co-director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic. While Tenenbaum is an imperfect - and unsympathetic defendant - he is a vehicle for bringing copyright law up to speed. "It's a real case and a real guy that's been run up for [real] money," said Schultz. A court will eventually make a decision on the issue of appropriate copyright damage, he said. "We're trying to help them make the right one." 9/28/2011