Tilting at RIAA, a stalwart is upended

In the community of activists trying to break down internet barriers they say stifle creativity and knowledge, few figures are as revered as Charles Nesson, co-founder of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. But when Nesson took on the recording industry in an eagerly anticipated civil case over music file sharing, the champion stumbled, reports the New York Times. On July 31, a jury handed down an eye-popping $675,000 judgment against Joel Tenenbaum, a Boston University graduate student who was defended by Nesson. Tenenbaum’s offense was downloading and sharing 30 songs. It was a stinging defeat for Professor Nesson, and to many in the legal community, it seemed to be a moment when an eccentric scholar’s devotion to a soaring vision blinded him to the practical realities of winning a legal case. Taking on a lawsuit that his own allies warned was ill-advised, Nesson acted in ways that many observers found bizarre and even harmful to the case. But in an interview, Nesson sounded a nearly evangelical tone, saying the case presented an opportunity to take on the recording industry’s "assault on what I think of as the digital-native generation" over the industry’s own failure to adapt to changing technologies. While artists deserve to be paid, he said, the solution is not to threaten and punish those who love music through a copyright regime that "produces absurd results…"

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