Will the Supreme Court prevent the creation of an anti-piracy ‘urban legend’?

will the supreme court prevent creation of an anti piracy urban legend supremecourtIt sounds like the start of a particularly niche joke: When is an illegal file-sharer not an illegal file-sharer? According to Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson, the answer may be when the music industry overreaches in order to try and turn one man into “an urban legend so frightening to children using the Internet, and so frightening for parents and teachers of students using the Internet, that they will somehow reverse the tide of the digital future.”

The potential urban legend in question is one Joel Tenenbaum, who currently owes Sony BMG Music Entertainment a staggering $675,000 following a lawsuit brought by the music corporation after Tenenbaum admitted to illegally sharing 31 songs owned by the company via the Kazaa file-sharing network. Somewhat surreally, the outrageous fine – awarded in July 2009 – has already been the subject of much legal discussion, having been initially lowered to $67,500 in 2010 by Judge Nancy Gertner of the U.S. District Court in Boston who described the initial amount as unconstitutional and then reinstated to the original amount the following year by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit after Sony challenged Gertner’s decision.

Nesson’s description of the aim to turn Tenenbaum into an anti-pirating boogeyman came in his plea to the US Supreme Court to hear the case. In the written plea, Tenenbaum is described as “a fine and courageous young man who has just received his doctorate in statistical physics” who has found himself the victim of what Neeson calls the Recording Industry Association of America’s “profoundly unethical use of federal civil process against individuals who have neither the ability to defend in knowledge of copyright law and federal procedure nor the financial means to hire lawyers”:

By burying Tenenbaum in retrial against adversaries for whom money is no object, RIAA/DOJ will be permitted to force the only remaining individuals standing against them finally to settle like all the rest, thereby avoiding constitutional challenge and ensuring that none will be raised again. They use the asymmetric cost of litigation to make defense by the individual economically irrational.

Nesson is asking the Supreme Court to not only review Tenenbaum’s case, but also the legality of federal and corporate responses to file-sharing in the US, which are described in the plea as “procedurally unfair and profoundly unethical.” “This Court should take this case to rectify bad judicial process spawned by a too casual dictum which now has juries making appalling awards without being given any fact to find except that the defendant knew what he was doing,” he argues.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide later this week whether it will hear Tenenbaum’s appeal.

Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.
Computing

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.
Photography

Looking to keep prying eyes at bay? Here's how to hide photos on your iPhone

People take tons of photos using their smartphones, but not all are meant to be shared or seen. Luckily, hiding photos on your iOS device is easy, whether you want to use built-in utilities or apps with added security.
Computing

Dodge the cryptojackers with the best torrent clients available today

Looking for the best torrent clients to help you share all of that wonderful legal content you own? Here's a list of our favorite torrent clients, all packed with great features while dodging malware and adverts.
Home Theater

SoundCloud hopes to add listeners with 50 percent discount for students

SoundCloud launched a student discount for it's top-tier SoundCloud Go+ membership, dropping the price to just $5 a month. It's a good deal for students, but will it be enough to keep the music platform from going under?
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation.
Home Theater

iPhone owners can finally hear the highest-quality streaming music on Tidal

If you're an iPhone owner who is after the highest possible audio quality from your streaming library, you now have the best option out there: Tidal's Masters Quality Audio (MQA) is now available on iOS.
Home Theater

Get loud with the best outdoor speakers to rock your party in any weather

From rugged, solar-powered backwoods listening companions to floating pool party jam boxes, the best outdoor speakers partner with your lifestyle to let you listen to your favorite tunes wherever you go.
Music

Apple Music offers a few subscription options. We break them down here

Competition for music streaming apps is quickly dwindling with giants like Apple Music and Spotify dominating most of the market? But how much does Apple Music cost and what does a subscription to the music-streaming platform entail?
Home Theater

If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, you now get Hulu for free

Spotify Premium subscribers have yet another reason to love the Swedish streaming service, with the company now offering ad-free Hulu accounts to all premium users at no additional cost.
Music

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

Apple Music completes its Amazon migration, is now available on Fire TV

Amazon's popular Fire TV devices are now compatible with the most popular on-demand music streaming service in the United States, thanks to a new integration with Apple Music that has finally hit Fire TV devices.
Emerging Tech

This streaming music service pays artists in Bitcoin, plants trees if you listen

Feedbands is an environmentally friendly subscription streaming music service that pays its artists in Bitcoin, and plants trees in exchange for authenticated listens from customers.