Court Hearing in Music-Industry Lawsuit Can Be Broadcast Online

A federal judge ruled today that Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society can broadcast online a hearing in a recording-industry lawsuit scheduled for January 22.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment is suing Joel Tenenbaum, a graduate student at Boston University, for alleged copyright infringement. Charles R. Nesson, a Harvard law professor representing Mr. Tenenbaum, had filed a motion last month to “admit the Internet into the courtroom.”

Today’s ruling goes beyond simply approving that request.

“The public benefit of offering a more complete view of these proceedings is plain, especially via a medium so carefully attuned to the Internet Generation captivated by these file-sharing lawsuits,” Judge Nancy Gertner wrote. “‘Public’ today has a new resonance, especially in this case.”

Sony had opposed the Internet broadcast, arguing in court documents that the goal of the request was “to influence the proceedings themselves and to increase the defendant’s and his counsel’s notoriety,” The Boston Globe reported.

Judge Gertner called Sony’s objections “curious.” Recording companies’ mass-lawsuit campaign, she said, “effectively relies on the publicity resulting from this litigation.” (In a footnote, however, she acknowledged the recording industry’s move away from mass lawsuits, saying, “It is possible the plaintiffs have now changed their minds about the virtues of this strategy.”)

A spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association of America declined to comment on the ruling. Mr. Tenenbaum’s Web site, Joel Fights Back, announced the decision on its Twitter feed.

Proceedings in an RIAA case have never before been televised, according to the blog Recording Industry vs. the People. But next Thursday the Courtroom View Network will narrowcast the hearing — an oral argument — to the Berkman Center’s site. Whether that arrangement will continue for further hearings and a trial remains to be seen. — Sara Lipka

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