Friday, July 24, 2009

Court issues rulings in SONY v. Tenenbaum

In SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum the Court has issued several rulings:

-Defendant will be permitted to use Wayne Marshall to demonstrate the file sharing technology to the jury. The Court reserved decision on any fact testimony by Mr. Marshall;
-Plaintiff would not be precluded from attempting to prove infringement of 30 song files, as opposed to the 5 the RIAA had verified; and
-Expert testimony from Felix Oberholzer-Gee would be precluded.

Judge Nancy Gertner: Electronic ORDER entered. Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's ruling excluding Wayne Marshall as an expert, made orally at Monday's conference, is DENIED. Marshall was proposed as an expert on June 29, 2009 -- months after the Defendant first proposed adding his fair use defense (April 15), a month after the original deadline for expert disclosures (May 30), weeks after the Court allowed addition of the fair use defense (June 15), and a week after the strict deadline for submission of expert reports (June 22). See June 16, 2009 Scheduling Order (setting strict schedule for fair use discovery and cautioning Defendant that further failures to meet the Court's time-limits could cause him to forfeit crucial elements of his case). The Defendant's only explanation for his delay is that the proposed expert did not realize earlier how his expertise would be relevant to this case. As before, this reason does not warrant an exception to the extremely tight calendar dictated by the July 27 trial date, agreed to by both sides. Marshall is also listed as a "fact" witness in the pretrial memorandum, and as someone who will be demonstrating file-sharing to the jury. The Court will allow Marshall to demonstrate the technology. As to any "fact" testimony beyond that demonstration, the Court will reserve judgment. (Gertner, Nancy)

Judge Nancy Gertner: Electronic ORDER entered. The Defendant argues in his proposed jury instructions that the Plaintiffs should be limited to proving infringement of 5 recordings at trial, listed in Exhibit A to the Complaint, rather than the 30 songs for which they now intend to show copyright violations at trial, the remainder of which appeared in Exhibit B. While ordinarily the Court does not address jury instructions at the outset of the case, this issue is different since it may bear on defendants overall strategy. Defendant does not suggest that the Plaintiffs were required to formally amend the Complaint (beyond noting the songs in Exhibit B to the complaint). Nor does he deny that the Defendant received notice of the Plaintiffs' intent to proceed on these 30 recordings via an amended Rule 26 disclosure as early as October 2008. Counsel simply says that he "missed" the disclosure, that it was not publicly reviewable (because it was part of discovery exchanged between the parties as the Rules permit) and that the Plaintiffs should not be permitted to pick the number of infringements they want to prove. This objection simply does not provide a basis for barring claims of which the Defendant had notice and which are appropriate for trial given the facts and allegations now before the Court. Alternatively, Tenenbaum suggests that, if anything, he should be found liable for only one act of infringement because his "non-commercial" file-sharing constitutes a single course of conduct subjecting him, at most, to a single penalty regardless of how many copyrighted works he shared or over what period. This interpretation is not supported by the language of 17 U.S.C. 504(c)(1). As Defendant concedes, it reads the law's clear provision for penalties "with respect to any one work" out of the statute altogether, in order to satisfy the Defendant's sense of "logic" and "proportion." Id. While the Court may agree that the copyright law is gravely out of proportion, the Defendant's logic is not Congress' logic. Trial will go forward on the 30 sound recordings for which the Plaintiffs provided notice to the Defendant.(Gertner, Nancy)

Judge Nancy Gertner: Electronic ORDER entered granting [896] Motion in Limine with respect to Felix Oberholzer-Gee, who has been proposed as an expert only days before trial without any expert report offered whatsoever. (Gertner, Nancy)
[Ed. note.

As most of my readers know, (a) MediaSentry has admitted under oath that it is impossible to verify that the song files alleged to be infringing copies are indeed copies, without playing and listening to them, and (b) only the handful of files enumerated in exhibit A to the complaint have been played by someone at the RIAA or record company to verify that they were in fact the alleged song files.

So at some point the plaintiffs will have to come up with proof of adequate verification, and someone from the plaintiffs will have to attest to such verification. As near as I can tell from the witness list I have seen, there is no one on that list who could give such testimony, since MediaSentry has not been doing the verification itself, instead turning the files over to someone at the RIAA to play and to listen.

Upon finding out that there was no verification of any of the song file copies, other than those listed on exhibit A to the original complaint, the Court will have to reach the same conclusion defendant's counsel have asked the Court to reach now. I.e., although it will not be a matter of preclusion, but a matter of the failure of proof, the end result will be the same.

Unfortunately, it appears that the deposition transcript was not brought to the Court's attention in connection with the preclusion motion, and the argument was not presented forcefully. But if Judge Gertner subjects the plaintiffs' evidence to any kind of scrutiny, she will eventually get to the same place to which the motion would have brought her, except that an hour or two of trial time will have been wasted.


Keywords: lawyer 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 portable music player


Unknown said...

Are the mistakes being made by the defense errors because Prof Nelson is not a trial lawyer?

Though, it seems like all the trials so far have been fraught with missed opportunities/errors on the side of the defendants.

The Common Man Speaking said...

But if Judge Gertner subjects the plaintiffs' evidence to any kind of scrutiny, she will eventually get there.

Or if she reads this blog as any person seeking to become well-informed on the issue should be doing. Working in a vacuum and trusting two adversarial sides to be able to properly present all of the issues involved is a recipe for ill-informed and potentially very damaging decisions.

Shane said...

"Working in a vacuum and trusting two adversarial sides to be able to properly present all of the issues involved is a recipe for ill-informed and potentially very damaging decisions."

Perhaps, but that is the nature of our adversarial system.