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Newbie Lawyer Ready to Take on the RIAA

Back in May, Kiwi Camara, Harvard Law School's youngest admittee, and a relatively new grad with his own firm, Camara & Sibley, stepped in at the last hour to represent Jammie Thomas in the latest chapter of her epic battle with the Recording Industry Association of America. After the initial trial over Thomas' alleged copyright infringement, which resulted in a $222,000 verdict against Thomas, Brian Toder, Thomas' first lawyer, successfully won a remand but later withdrew from the case. So when Camara volunteered to represent Thomas pro bono -- just three weeks before trial and with little discernible expertise in copyright law -- many observers expressed skepticism about his chances of winning.

But with Thomas' trial just a week away, no one's questioning Camara's abilities anymore. As Ars Technica reports, Camara has already made headway on two significant issues which, although fairly basic, had so far been overlooked.

First, Camara sought to exclude evidence from investigator MediaSentry, which tracked down IP addresses of file-sharers and provided the only evidence of observed copyright infringement. Camara has argued that MediaSentry was not licensed as a private investigator in Minnesota, that it ran an illegal "pen register," and as such, the evidence should be barred.

Second, Camara has argued that Capitol Records failed to establish the validity of its copyrights in court. In the original trial, Capitol Records provided copies of their copyright registrations, but the federal rules of evidence require certified copies. Capitol Records argued that the copyright registrations were already deemed admissible in the first trial and thus, should be admissible in the trial on remand, but the judge disagreed. Now the RIAA will need to procure the satisfied copies, which it says will be "difficult and expensive" to accomplish. And even if the RIAA does come up with the records, Camara contends that that the registrations do not show the actual sound recording filed at the copyright office, or whether they are the same as the files Thomas is accused of sharing.

Camara believes that this approach will help vindicate Thomas. But Camara has a broader goal in mind. If the judge requires the RIAA to meet its burden of proof in the manner that Camara insists is required -- with certified records and proof of their contents -- then the cost to the RIAA to bring these copyright actions will increase significantly. In fact, after this case is over, Camara and Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson plan to file a class action against the RIAA on the theory that:

[T]he RIAA has illegally threatened people, using void copyright registrations, and scared them into paying an average of $3,000 or $4,000 apiece to fend off the threat of federal litigation.

I'm not entirely surprised by Camara's headway in this matter so far. Though one can't discount the importance of experience, sometimes, it takes the fresh eye of a less experienced lawyer to question and challenge basic issues that more experienced lawyers are inclined to gloss over as unimportant.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 10, 2009 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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