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First Amendment

Judge Criticizes Harvard Law Prof, But Allows Client to Criticize Record Labels

Posted Dec 8, 2009 10:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge apparently didn't like the trial tactics of a Harvard Law School professor challenging record labels' quest for illegal downloading damages, but she sided with his client by refusing to issue an order that the student stop promoting illegal downloading.

A federal jury in Boston had ordered the student, Joel Tenenbaum, to pay $675,000 in damages for illegally downloading 30 songs on the Internet. Yesterday U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner agreed to order Tenenbaum to erase the songs, but refused the labels’ request to stop him from promoting such activity, the Boston Globe's MetroDesk blog reports.

Gertner said the First Amendment protected Tenenbaum’s right to criticize the file-sharing crackdown and the statutory regime that led to the verdict. While siding with Tenenbaum on the free-speech issue, she criticized Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Harvard law professor Charles Nesson, saying he led a “truly chaotic defense,'' the Boston Globe says.

Gertner said Nesson missed deadlines and ignored rules, and tape-recorded opposing counsel and the judge without permission, the story says.

A website created for Tenenbaum’s defense had linked to a Swedish file-sharing service that included the 30 illegal songs on a playlist it dubbed “The $675,000 Mixtape,'' drawing the ire of lawyers for the record labels. The file-sharing service, The Pirate Bay, included an image of Tenenbaum as "DJ Joel.'' The playlist songs included Nirvana's "Come As You Are'' and Green Day's "Nice Guys Finish Last.”

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