Saturday, 2:15 PM
Federal judge in Boston orders groundbreaking webcast of hearing
By Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff
In the first such ruling in the federal judiciary in Massachusetts, a district court judge in Boston today agreed to allow video cameras in the courtroom to provide live Internet coverage of a closely watched lawsuit against a Boston University graduate student who allegedly downloaded music illegally.
US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner said she will allow Coutroom View Network, a New York-based company that webcasts trials in state courts, into a key hearing Thursday in the suit against the student, Joel Tenenbaum, by a group that represents the US recording industry.
The Judicial Conference, which sets policy for the federal judiciary, has long prohibited cameras and recording equipment in courtrooms, but Gertner said she believes the ban is advisory and should be set aside in a case that has garnered keen interest on the Web, particularly among young people.
``In many ways, this case is about the so-called Internet Generation -- the generation that has grown up with computer technology in general, and the Internet in particular, as commonplace,'' Gertner wrote in an 11-page order. ``It is reportedly a generation that does not read newspapers or watch the evening news, but gets its information largely, if almost exclusively, over the Internet.''
The ruling came in response to a request for Internet access by Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson, who helped found the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and is defending Tenenbaum for allegedly downloading seven songs illegally from a peer-to-peer network.
Nesson said in court papers that webcasting would shine a light on a lawsuit "prosecuted by a dying CD industry against a defendant who did what comes naturally to digital kids."
Lawyers for the Recording Industry Association of America, which is suing Tenenbaum, had argued that Gertner lacks the authority to allow cameras in the courtroom. They said in court papers that Nesson's real motive was "to influence the proceedings themselves and to increase the Defendant's and his counsel's notoriety."
The order issued by Gertner applies only to next week's hearing, but she said she will address requests for further Internet coverage as the case proceeds. A trial is scheduled for March 30.
Under the order, Courtroom View Network will "narrowcast" the hearing in its entirety to the website of the Berkman Center, which is open to the public.