Copyright Law

Judge Axes Grad Student's Counterclaim for 'Abuse of Process' in RIAA Case


An attempt by a Boston University graduate student who is a defendant in a high-profile music downloading case to turn the tables on the Recording Industry Association of America has been blocked by the federal judge overseeing the case.

In a ruling yesterday, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner rejected defendant Joel Tenenbaum’s argument that litigation by the well-funded RIAA and other plaintiffs seeking hefty damages awards against individuals accused of downloading and distributing copyrighted material amounts to an abuse of process, reports the National Law Journal.

“Abuse of process, as the cause of action is defined, does not turn on the identity of the defendants, their ability to hire an attorney, nor their inclination to settle the claims against them,” says Gertner, who sits in the District of Massachusetts, in a written opinion. “Congress has handed the plaintiffs a massive hammer to combat copyright infringement, and they have chosen to use it. That choice, whether wise or unwise, does not amount to an abuse of process.”

However, she allowed Tenenbaum to amend his pleadings to assert a fair use defense.

He is represented by professor Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School. Although Nesson could not be reached for comment, a student attorney who works with him on the case says Tenenbaum is disappointed with the judge’s ruling on his abuse of process counterclaim, the NLJ writes.

Additional and related coverage:

Copyrights & Campaigns: “2009 Tenenbaum: Court dismisses counterclaims against labels; defers ruling on constitutionality of statutory damages; permits fair use defense to proceed”

ABAJournal.com: “1st Circuit Nixes Webcast of RIAA Hearing”

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

France 24: “Woman accused in music-sharing suit back in court”

Ars Technica: “RIAA lawyers toss ‘a skunk in the jury box,’ apologize”

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