Trials & Litigation

1st Circuit Nixes Webcast of RIAA Hearing


Ruling on a writ of mandamus seeking to quash a federal judge’s plan to allow a gavel-to-gavel webcast of a hearing in a hard-fought case over music downloading, the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held today that a webcast falls squarely within an existing ban on cameras in the courtroom.

“We are reluctant to interfere with a district judge’s interpretation of a rule of her court, especially one that involves courtroom management,” writes a three-judge appellate panel.

But Local Rule 83.3 of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, consistent with other court authority, clearly prohibits the planned webcast, the panel determines.

“In this case, then, all roads lead to Rome,” the Boston-based 1st Circuit concludes at the tail end of a 25-page written opinion on the question. “It is perfectly clear that the local rule, the Judicial Conference policy, and the circuit council resolution are cut from the same cloth. We think that they must be construed in pari materia. Separately and collectively, the three statements undermine the district judge’s assertion of authority to allow webcasting.”

The appellate court had advisory mandamus jurisdiction, the opinion notes, because the question was one that likely would recur again if not decided now.

The webcast dispute is the latest chapter in a high-profile music downloading case brought by the Recording Industry Association of America. Sparks have repeatedly flown since Harvard Law School’s Charles Nesson began defending a graduate student against the RIAA’s allegations that he illegally downloaded a relatively small number of songs.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “1st Circuit Mulls Plan to Webcast Hearing in RIAA Music Downloading Case”

ABAJournal.com: “Harvard Prof Defends Controversial Tactics in Music Downloading Case”

E-Commerce and Tech Law: “First Circuit Shutters Webcast of Tenenbaum Copyright Trial”

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly: “First Circuit: Webcasting of hearing not allowed”

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