Sunday, March 16, 2008

A word to the press: fight for the public's right to know

This is an open letter to the representatives of the press.

Now that the class action against the nefarious practices of the RIAA and its investigators, collectors, and big 4 record companies, Andersen v. Atlantic is about to begin in earnest, as pretrial discovery gets underway, it is predictable that:

1. The defendants' lawyers will stonewall to the maximum extent possible, and will fight for extraordinary gag orders and confidentiality orders on EVERYTHING learned in the discovery process; and

2. Their reason for doing so will be to keep the information from becoming public knowledge and to keep the lawyers for the defendants in the copyright infringement cases from getting their hands on that information, since it will support affirmative defenses and counterclaims, and otherwise complicate the RIAA's oppressive litigations.

It is up to you, the press, to fight for the First Amendment and the public's right to know.

The plaintiffs' lawyers will not be able to do that and will be under pressure to agree to stipulations and the like.

You and your employer's attorneys should be monitoring the Atlantic v. Andersen case closely, and when the RIAA starts playing its 'secrecy games', even if the plaintiffs' lawyers are forced to agree to secrecy, it is imperative that you go into court and represent the right of the people to have access to judicial proceedings.

If you do not do it, no one else will. And if you do not do it, you will have nothing to report on.


Keywords: digital copyright law online internet law legal download upload peer to peer p2p file sharing filesharing music movies indie independent label freeculture creative commons pop/rock artists riaa independent mp3 cd favorite songs intellectual property


Michael Hoffman said...

Well said, as usual.

Scott said...

Unfortunately, the press only fights for "the public's right to know" when it's in the press' pecuniary interest to do so. Compared to the other issues of the day, the story of the RIAA's multi-front assault on our civil liberties is more obscure than the other news on the front pages of our nation's newspapers. Moreover, newspaper editorial budgets are a fraction of what they were ten years ago, becase of the same paradigm shift that hit the recording industry. Investigative reporting teams have been eliminated. They're not going to pay lawyers to demand access to information that will be used in articles that most people won't understand or care about.

These days, most investigative journalism isn't written by journalists at networks or newspapers, but by authors of books. These people usually work on shoestring budgets. They don't have attorneys on retainer who can engage the RIAA in the courts to demand information that the public has a right to know. Who will help them?

Igor said...

what are the chances/rules for a blogger to go pro-se and fight for this...

raybeckerman said...

igor, that would not be the way to do it.

Scott said...

Ray, in the past you floated the idea of "John Does" at colleges banding together to hire attorneys for representation in RIAA lawsuits. Why couldn't bloggers and other online journalists who wish to advance the public's right to know do the same thing? (Cory Doctorow, are you reading this?)

(EFF page on blogger's rights: )

raybeckerman said...

I just would want to maker sure that there is competent First Amendment legal representation.

Scott said...

Of course.

Anonymous said...

What about trying to draft a legal clinic from one of Oregon's law school's into the 1st amendment fray?