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Nancy Gertner: New Media Judge

U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner gets new media. She was the first judge in Massachusetts to blog, she has appeared as a guest on at least one podcast that I happen to know of, and this week she entered a history-making order allowing a hearing before her next week to be broadcast over the Web.

Her order came in a music-industry case against a Boston University graduate student alleging illegal file sharing. The student, Joel Tenenbaum, is being defended by Charles Nesson, who filed the motion asking Gertner to permit the webcast. Nesson is a professor at Harvard Law School and a founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Gertner's order applies only to next week's hearing, where she will take up various motions. It will allow the Courtroom View Network (which is a business partner of, the host of this blog) to "narrowcast" the hearing to the Berkman Center's Web site, where the public will be able to view it.

The case is a natural for a webcast, Gertner's order suggests:

"Public" today has a new resonance, especially in this case. The claims and issues at stake involve the internet, file-sharing practices, and digital copyright protections. The Defendants are primarily members of a generation that has grown up with the internet, who get their news from it, rather than from the traditional forms of public communication, such as newspapers or television. Indeed, these cases have generated widespread public attention, much of it on the internet. Under the circumstances, the particular relief requested -- "narrowcasting" this proceeding to a public website -- is uniquely appropriate.

The music industry objected to the webcast, something Gertner described in her order as "curious," given the industry's purported interest in bringing these lawsuits in order to deter file sharing among the broader public. "Their strategy effectively relies on the publicity resulting from this litigation," she notes." More coverage of her ruling is available from The Boston Globe and the Citizen Media Law Project, which is an affiliate of the Berkman Center. If the case goes on to trial, Gertner will consider then whether to allow the webcasts to continue.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on January 16, 2009 at 12:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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