No webcast to be allowed in RIAA Case

Chicago (IL) – The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston, MA ruled on Thursday that the oral arguments the case of Joel Tenenbaum cannot be broadcast live over the Internet. Tenenbaum is among the countless individuals who have been sued for copyright infringement.

In December, Tenenbaum made a motion that could have enabled the Courtroom View Network to broadcast the hearing, which was originally scheduled for January 22, 2009. Tenenbaum felt that the airing of the webcast would show others how those sued by the RIAA are treated. The district court agreed, citing intense public interest. Judge Gerntner of the district court said that she would allow the hearing to be broadcast.

However, the RIAA, Warner Brothers, Sony BMG, and other companies involved in the hearing petitioned against the ruling, citing a law which states that “except as specifically provided in these rules or by order of the court, no person shall … make any broadcast by radio, television, or other means, in the course of or in connection with any proceedings in this court.” The petitioners also brought forward a point made by the US Judicial Conference in 1990 that advocated a ban on use of recording devices in federal courtrooms unless they were needed to preserve trial evidence.

The RIAA claims that it is possible for supporters of Tenenbaum to distort the facts and sway the opinion of the case via a webcast.  

The court has ruled in their favor, claiming that the webcast would have broken the 1990 rule, but did state “We are reluctant to interfere with a district judge’s interpretation of a rule of her court, especially one that involves courtroom management,” said the opinion written by Judge Bruce Selya.

The appeals court noted that its sees technology is changing at a fast pace, however the judges made it clear that “this is not a case about free speech writ large” but instead about “the rule of law.” Cara Duckworth, a spokeswoman for the RIAA, stated that the association is  “pleased with the First Circuit’s decision in his matter and [we] now look forward to focusing on the underlying copyright infringement claims in this case.”

In the United States, the RIAA has sued more than 30,000 individuals for alleged copyright infringement for sharing their music via peer-to-peer networks like Limewire and Kazaa – some cases are remain open even today. The majority of the cases were settled outside of court for a few thousand dollars.