p2pnet news view P2P | Interviews:- The fight waged by a group of young Harvard law students against Vivendi Universal (France), Sony (Japan), EMI (Britain), and Warner Music’s (US) Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is epic.
Their client is Boston student Joel Tenebaum.
Led by Harvard law professor Charles Nesson, the team of CyberOne students has taken on the RIAA muscle, including Matt ‘The Dentist‘ Oppenheim, the shadowy ex-RIAA attack lawyer who officially left the extortion unit years ago, but who’s still somehow never far away.
One of his more infamous quotes is, “the Fourth Amendment does not apply to (the RIAA)”.
This time around, “I sat across the table from Matt Oppenheim,” Joel told p2pnet.
” He informed me that he was among the people who shut down Napster. There was also a direct phone call to my cell at work from someone saying he was the client who then proceeded to try to bark me down into some kind of settlement, and who would NOT let me hang up the phone.”
The Harvard team is dealing with a group of highly trained, highly paid, highly experienced lawyers. But its members are doing a lot more than merely holding their own.
They also have their own site, Joel fights back, and on it there’s a post from the parent of one of the RIAA’s sue ‘em all victims.
It reads, in part »»»
My daughter is a student at college. She as also received a letter demanding $4100. before Jan. 19 or face legal action. Since the school did not fight the request and handed over the students i.p addresses. They have referred her to an attorney. When she contacted him he wanted $5000 for a retainer. 21 students received the letters, that`s over $100,000.
“Good luck and stick it to those greedy !@$#@!,” it adds.
How can it possibly be?
According to the RIAA, it stopped suing people in December last year.
And the RIAA never lies.
Q&A with the Harvard crew
The on- and offline media have been covering the battle since Day One, but very little has been said about the team members themselves. So with Debbie Rosenbaum’s help (as always), p2pnet asked them a few questions.
[Front: Jimmy Richardson, Anna Volftsun, Daniel Choi. Back: Jen Dawson, D. Yvette Wohn, Isaac Meister, Aaron Dulles, Joel Tenenbaum, Raymond Bilderbeck, Matt Sanchez, Debbie.]
p2pnet: How familiar were you with the RIAA sue ‘em all cases before becoming involved in this project?
Joel Tenenbaum: Maybe I’d heard about suits once or twice, but hadn’t given them much thought. Considering how many people are involved and what’s happening to them, the story has managed to stay remarkably quiet. I think it’s hard to be young and online and not be aware of the RIAA strategy. Sharing music is such an ordinary act, or at any rate used to be, that when the RIAA made in dangerous, everybody took notice.
Aaron Dulles: Imagine that, under the color of law, some conglomerate of corporations began suing people over ordinary everyday real world acts? It’s pretty easy to notice.
p2pnet: The University of Maine Law School, the San Francisco University Law School and the Franklin Pierce Law Center were already providing legal help in RIAA lawsuits. Were you aware of this and if so, did it have any bearing on your decision to act for Joel Tenenbaum?
Debbie Rosenbaum: I’ve actually reached out to the students and faculty at all of those law schools. I’m also in touch with quite a few of the lawyers in some of the other high profile cases. We’re in touch with everyone who is on our team, and we’re trying to figure out a way to achieve synergies.
p2pnet: How was the team selected?
Matt Sanchez: The team originally was composed of interested members of Prof. Nesson’s CyberOne class at Harvard Law School. From that team, Debbie and Matt stayed on for the next semester, joined by a new group of students selected for their interest in the case.
Aaron: The team is largely self-selected. Although we’re not all geeks-gone-lawyers, I think that everybody on the team, including Prof. Nesson, has a strong respect for how technology is changing the world around us.
p2pnet: When was Joel first approached?
Matt: We took this case because we learned of Joel’s situation and wanted to help him. We didn’t come up with the idea of defending a file-sharing case before meeting Joel.
Joel: I’d already been fighting pro se. When you’re in a lake, flailing, pretending to know how to swim, whether to take the life saver doesn’t take much thought.
p2pnet: Joel, Did you have anyone else lined up?
Joel: I’d nothing else and knew no one. My mom and I were about to meet with a bankruptcy lawyer.
p2pnet: Presumably, you see this as a part of your studies and if that’s the case, how valuable is it?
Aaron: Indisputably this has been valuable to me as a first-year student. Civil procedure, as any first-year can tell you, is sometimes painful. The ins and outs of federal procedure are now vastly more important to my everyday work. It’s all well and good to study the opinions of judges tasked with examining the legal theories of each party, but it’s equally instructive to see and participate in the crafting of those legal theories.
Matt: This case is a great opportunity to get real-world legal experience. Law school simply does not teach the day-to-day workings of a legal case.
Raymond Bilderbeck: As well as providing a great hands-on experience of the procedural details involved in litigating an actual case, I feel like the dynamic of the litigation team is great training for my future career as a lawyer. Even though we’re only humble law students, we’re all encouraged to voice our legal and strategic opinions on the progress of the case: this is great preparation for the future, when we will each have to be willing to voice our opinions in professional environments that are considerably more intimidating than our current litigation team. At the same time, we have to formulate those opinions in ways that will persuade other members of the group – as well as the “senior partner” (Professor Nesson) – if we want our views to have any practical impact on the case. That’s an experience that you don’t often find in the formal law school curriculum.
Anna Volftsun: I find it an incredibly valuable experience to see the practice of law first-hand and the profound effect that it is having on the life of my client Joel.
Debbie: Part of what makes professor Nesson so unique in the legal education is that he demonstrates that law does not exist in a silo that it is shaped by culture and context and media. This experience has single-handedly taught me more about law and lawyers and procedure and strategy than any other class I’ve ever taken at harvard law school.
p2pnet: Would you recommend other universities do follow your examples?
Matt: Absolutely. There are far more people with legal problems than there are available lawyers, particularly given that most individuals can’t afford a lawyer.
Anna: Certainly. Internet copyright issues affect all of us and the people directly affected should be the ones involved in these cases.
p2pnet: How much help did you get from professor Nesson / others, and who were they?
We’re a student-driven team but a faculty-led initiative. Professor Nesson is the captain, but we’re all part of the ship’s progress. We debate furiously, but he ultimately has the final decision on all work product and strategy.
p2pnet: Is this strictly an in-house thing, or is the effort widely known around Harvard?
Aaron: I wouldn’t say it’s widely known, but it’s certainly no secret. Just like the team, the people who are in the know tend to be those with a better understanding and appreciation of the role of technology and how it’s changing our lives.
Debbie: Actually, part of what makes this project special is that we have engaged students from a variety of schools at Harvard. We’re working with budding journalists, undergrads, computer science students, and even a team of students at Harvard Business School. The buzz around our case is becoming viral and a ton of students are eager to get involved and/or demonstrate their support.
p2pnet: What’s the general reaction to this from other students not studying law?
Responses we’ve gotten have generally been along two lines:
1) “Way to go! Fight those [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted]-ers. They’ve been screwing over fans and artists for years.”
2) “Way to go, Harvard, you’re sanctioning stealing and killing the music industry.” Sometimes they add something like, “I wonder how Professor Nesson feels about the fact that I just stole a copy of his book, Evidence.”
Aaron: I find that most people I talk to are supportive. There appears to be wide agreement on our theory that the legal regime, and the industry’s litigation tactics, put defendants in a rather unfair position by effectively denying them equal access to the protections and processes of the law.
Anna: We’ve gotten a great deal of support from the internet community through our website and twitter feed. The responses I’ve personally gotten are generally positive.
p2pnet: Will you be taking on other cases?
Matt: We we’ren’t sure whether we’ll take on any other cases. For now we’re focusing on defending Joel to the best of our abilities, which will set precedent that will help others.
Debbie: We have been approached by a variety of people who are desperate for representation against the RIAA; surely, ethere is no shortage of individuals who need legal help and cannot afford it. Unfortunately, we’re a team of only 6 law students who have classes and other full time commitments. Because this case has attracted so much media attention, we hope that we’re helping to set a positive precedent that will directly help all those who we can not personally serve. While we have received some heat from advocates for not taking on more clients, we just don’t have the manpower or bandwidth to take on anymore at this time. We hope that by making a big splash and by defending Joel to the best of our abilities, we’re serving far more than a single client.
p2pnet: Has this experience put anyone off taking up lawyering as a profession?
Matt: Nope. This is exactly what I want to do: help people overcome their legal problems.
p2pnet: Have you heard from any members of the RIAA team?
Joel: I sat across the table from Matt Oppenheim. He informed me that he was among the people who shut down Napster. There was also a direct phone call to my cell at work from someone saying he was the client who then proceeded to try to bark me down into some kind of settlement, and who would NOT let me hang up the phone.
p2pnet: Finally, if you could give the RIAA and Vivendi Universal, EMI, Warner Music and Sony Music’s RIAA three pieces of advice, what would you say?
D.Yvette Wohn: When you want to read what the latest news on your artist is, where do you go? To the library? The bookstore? Probably not. You go to the Internet. And you read articles. For free. The fact of the matter is, content distribution for a lot of things like text and music, have changed. For those of us in the legacy industry (and as a journalist I would know) it is hard to swallow, but the last thing we should be doing is seeking people to blame. Especially people who had no commercial interest in the content. If newspapers banded together and sued you for every copyrighted article you read online, what would happen?
Joel: The flexibility of the internet is a profitable tool, not a pervasive threat. As I’ve said before, a broad base of passionate fans would eagerly reward innovation and good will.
Aaron: It’s plainly evident, and intensely distasteful, that the RIAA has found a way to wield the law and courts to effectively create a new stream of revenue. But I think neither the courts nor the public will stand for it too much longer. It may require some creative thought on the part of the industry, but they should focus their efforts more on adapting to the changing landscape rather than stubbornly holding on to the old ways of a world we no longer live in.
Jon Newton - p2pnet
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