Mother in legal fight on music downloads

January 2009

Internet, record labels

From an article by Katie Mulvaney in the Providence Journal

A Providence woman has attended federal court to fight a music company’s efforts to seize her computer in its pursuit of allegations that her son illegally swapped songs online as a student at Classical High School. Capitol Records have filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts which accuses Joel Tenenbaum of violating copyright laws by downloading and sharing seven songs while a teenager living at home in Providence. Tenenbaum, 24, now lives in Boston, where he is studying toward a doctorate in physics at Boston University. The company has asked the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island to compel his parents, Judith and Arthur Tenenbaum, to turn over the family computer so experts can inspect it. Judith Tenenbaum said before proceedings were to begin yesterday that the family disposed of the computer her son used as a teen years ago.  “That was two computers ago,” she said. She is reluctant to turn over her current computer, she said, because it contains personal information.  Yesterday’s hearing before Magistrate Lincoln D. Almond was postponed after he concluded that Tenenbaum’s lawyer, Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, was not eligible to argue before the court. It also remained unclear whether the Rhode Island lawyer seated with Nesson, Samuel Miller, was authorized to appear, Almond said. Lawyers for Capitol Records pressed for a prompt rescheduling to allow time for experts to look at the computer before a trial in March which will now be January 6th and meanwhile the family retain their computer. Nesson, who is working pro bono, contends the suit is unconstitutional because the company is seeking as much as $1 million for the seven songs Tenenbaum allegedly shared. The company is seeking “gross and excessive damages” when compared with the allegations, Nesson said. “We’re saying it’s an abuse of the federal civil process.” The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has recently said that it was reviewing its policy of suing individual downloaders (see update below).

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