The Recording Industry Association of America regularly sends out thousands of greenmail compensation demands to the families of downloaders who are usually minors. College students are favorite targets, but the RIAA never sets its lawyers upon Harvard students because it fears the heavy hitters in the university’s law school. (See story.) Harvard professor Charlie Nesson grew tired of waiting to take a crack at them so he’s taken the case of a non-Harvard student.
Boston.com summarizes some of the excitement over Nesson’s entry into the music downloading war: “’RIAA Litigation May Be Unconstitutional,’ headlined Slashdot, a self-described ’news for nerds’ website. ’Harvard’s Charlie Nesson Raises Constitutional Questions in RIAA Litigation,’ trumpeted ZDNet Government. ‘Insane Harvard Law Professor Promises MP3 Justice,’ proclaimed Gawker.”
The case involves Joel Tenenbaum a Boston University grad student who the RIAA has accused of downloading seven MP3 files. The RIAA’s basic shakedown is for $3000-$5000 and a promise to stop downloading. Most families cave in since they can’t afford to fight the RIAA over three to five grand, particularly since the digital copyright laws have been bought and paid for through the RIAA’s grease monkeys in Congress. A song on iTunes costs $.99; the minimum fine for downloading from a P2P is $750 per song.
Nesson plans to try the RIAA in the court of public opinion first and in a court of law second. Nesson is attacking the Digital Theft Deterrence Act of 1999 as overly punitive and unconstitutional because its cases can’t really be tried in courts. The way the law is written, cases can only be rubber stamped in favor of the RIAA. Techdirt has the full story and some hard-hitting quotes from Nesson’s brief.