Interesting article in Ars Technica:
How Harvard Law threw down the gauntlet to the RIAAComplete article
Inside one Harvard Law professor's bid to turn his students into cyberactivists and to force the music industry to face the future in the process.
By Nate Anderson
In retrospect, Harvard's eventual involvement was obvious. As far back as 2007, we noted that RIAA prelitigation letters had yet to be sent to Harvard, and one reason for that may have been the quite public opposition of Harvard Law School to the entire RIAA legal campaign.
Law professor Charles Nesson and John Palfrey, director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society (which Nesson co-founded), made their position clear. "Recently, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, Cary Sherman, wrote to Harvard to challenge the university administration to stop acting as a 'passive conduit' for students downloading music," they wrote in 2007. "We agree. Harvard and the 22 universities to which the RIAA has sent 'pre-litigation notices' ought to take strong, direct action... and tell the RIAA to take a hike."
It wasn't quite a declaration of war, but it did amount to an Army unit trotting out a massive howitzer, oiling it up, and firing off some test shots. Powerful interests at Harvard Law were displeased enough by the RIAA actions to speak out, but they weren't yet ready to play an active role.
That is, until Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum got in touch with Nesson in 2008. Nesson took the case, acting as Tenenbaum's attorney, but he outsourced the work of research, strategy, and brief writing to a set of eager Harvard Law students. The students would quickly mount an ambitious defense, not just of Joel Tenenbaum, but of the claim that the RIAA legal campaign was unconstitutionally excessive and improper. Armed with a law library, Twitter, a Web site, and caffeine, the students have already made sure that the upcoming Tenenbaum trial will eclipse the Minnesota Jammie Thomas case for sheer spectacle.
And, if things go their way, the world will get the chance to see it all live on the Web.
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