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Charles Nesson Ruled Jointly Liable To Pay RIAA 207

Posted by timothy
from the that-limb-looks-awfully-thin-professor dept.
eldavojohn writes "The highly anticipated Joel Tenenbaum trial ended in a disaster for Tenenbaum. But worse for his highly publicized lawyer, Charles Nesson, they are both liable for payment of the court's decision to the RIAA. Nesson's pro bono agreement with Tenenbaum may turn out to be a seriously expensive experiment for the Harvard Law Professor." As the Ars story points out, though, it's "some fees incurred by the RIAA during the trial" for which he'd be liable, not the whole judgment amount.
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Charles Nesson Ruled Jointly Liable To Pay RIAA

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  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @06:26PM (#31364610)
    Nesson must have been paid handsomely by the RIAA to throw the case and set a precedent favorable to the RIAA. One thing is for sure... nobody is going to retain him as a lawyer for a case like this again, even if it is pro bono!
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @06:44PM (#31364840) Journal

    I can't see how his behavior helps Mr. Tennenbaum.

    I pondered this as well. Perhaps by hosting audio of the court case and distributing it, he was hoping the RIAA would complain and consider it copyrighted material--which they did. He then would hope the judge would rule in favor of Nesson and deny the RIAA the "motion to compel" or whatever they used to try to make him take it down--the judge did not, of course. But had the judge ruled in favor of Nesson regarding that motion, Nesson might have the judge in a very unusual position where the judge must now find Tenenbaum free of all charges on the exact same principle as the court audio that the RIAA said was copyrighted. It would be similar enough to get your foot in the door.

    This tactic, as we now see, unfortunately failed. That's about as much as I could see in that move but I'm not a lawyer.

    He's just dancing around on the stage like a really old Ziggy Stardust.

    Well, great, now you've put this in my head: Charles Nesson [arstechnica.com] + Ziggy Stardust [wordpress.com] = Donald Pleasence in The Puma Man [photobucket.com]

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jedi Alec (258881) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @07:14PM (#31365170)

    What the OP had in mind (I assume) is that lawyers often defend people whom they know to be guilty to the bone, just for the buck. That's where this joke comes comes from: "How do you tell when a lawyer is lying? His lips are moving.".

    So the OP wasn't saying that lawyers shouldn't defend people accused of murder, just those that are clearly (known to the lawyer himself) guilty.

    I, for one, think his idea warrants some attention, at least.

    Under US law anyone accused of a crime is entitled to an attorney. Attorneys are bound by an ethical code that they must do everything possible within the law to represent their clients to the best of their abilities. So what is an attorney supposed to do when the judge asks how the defendant pleas? "Not guilty your honor, even though you and I both know the sooner we strap him to the electric chair, the better off we'll be."

    And another interesting part of US law...people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. So a lawyer, or anyone else for that matter, "knowing his client is clearly guilty" is an impossibility in itself.

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @07:25PM (#31365268)

    Unfortunately, remove juries and you remove jury nullification. The purpose of a jury (ostensibly) is to ensure that punishments are not imposed arbitrarily by the state; they always have authority of the the peers of the one being judged.

    "I consider...[trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."
            - Thomas Jefferson

  • by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @07:32PM (#31365328)

    I'd look into appealing on the basis that Nesson did not provide a proper defense

    I don't think a malpractice suit against Nesson is likely to succeed, but it would be AWESOME; thus, I fully support this suggestion!

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @07:46PM (#31365460)

    Nesson claimed that the songs he uploaded and linked to on his blog were irrelevant to the Tennenbaum case that he was the lawyer for. Is it possible that Nesson is right? Suppose that Tennenbaum had been accused of bank robbery and then suppose that Nesson goes out and robs a different bank on his own time. Is that new crime relevant to his client's case? The judge granted the RIAA Motion to Compel and now the same judge has ordered Nesson to pay the RIAA expenses but...maybe...Nesson's got a better case on appeal...and maybe the judgments and punishments will be used to support his central argument that the punishment is out of proportion to the damages for a civil case.

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday March 04, 2010 @08:09PM (#31365652) Journal

    And that juries are filled with 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty. True story-

    My mom has always tried to lead by example, and has always been very civic minded, so when called for jury duty she took her vacation time and went. At the end of the trial she came in white faced and said "NEVER have a jury trial! Always demand a judge!" and when I asked her what had her spooked here is what she said. It was an arson case, the fire inspector couldn't even tell if the building had been set on fire or if it was a short, the guy didn't even have enough insurance to cover his losses and had to file for bankruptcy, so there wasn't even a motive. She hung the jury 11-1 in favor of conviction. Why were they gonna give this guy 10 years? "Because he is Italian and all of those people are in the mob and do things like that. Haven't you ever seen Goddfellas?"

    That's right, that man's freedom was about to be taken away, not by the evidence, but by a Joe Pesci scene in a mob movie. There wasn't any arguing the evidence, they saw Goodfellas and Italians burn buildings, the end. So I would say we have a lot bigger problems than jury nullification, like juries that make idiocracy look like a fucking documentary.

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Galactic Dominator (944134) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @08:21PM (#31365754)

    There's a large, large difference between free counsel, and court appointed counsel. If you're charged with a crime you're entitled to a court appointed lawyer, and at the end of the case you get to make payments on the bill regardless the outcome or validity of the charges most of the time. If you fail to repay the debt, you get spend time in jail. Some jurisdictions credit you as little as $20 day for time served(maybe less in some areas for all I know), so that $2000 bill your court appointed attorney turned in can easily turn into quite a sit in lockup. So the lesson is don't do crime, especially if you're poor cause then they are really going to stick it you.

  • Non sequitur (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @09:52PM (#31366412)

    NYCL was saying that no one proved that the distribution right was violated by Tennenbaum, unless I misunderstood him. I think he admitted to uploading & downloading songs and whether his lawyer was crazy was never part of that issue (indeed, NYCL said many times that he did not agree with Nelson's handling of the case). I'm not sure how the lawyer linking to some files would prove that the client did anything. In any case, it rests upon an understanding of terms of art ("distribution right") and what was actually proven technically vs. what was admitted to (just for one example, I can "admit" to doing something I never did). The process can be wrong even if the result is correct. FWIW, I do believe that Tennenbaum "uploaded and downloaded" music. He admitted to such and I have little reason to doubt that admission (though I wish I could find an actual transcript... I don't exactly trust some of the coverage I've seen).

    Thus, I'm not sure why you would think that NYCL would agree to something that is quite unrelated to what has been shown here, but I can't exactly speak for the guy. NYCL had nothing to do with the handling of this case and the court was clearly frustrated with counsel on BOTH sides based on what I saw in the transcripts.

    Speaking of which, I refer you to the transcripts rather than media coverage. Some of it has been very bad. In particular, I've seen quotes that appeared to have been invented. They were nice enough to cite a source for them. I checked their source. The quotes were nowhere to be found. They claimed something contained an "admission" even though it clearly said "is alleged to have" right before the part they quoted. That's very worrying, particularly given that it was on a lawyer's blog (and a lawyer somehow connected to the entertainment industry, no less).

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:35PM (#31366740)

    A better way to handle this is to equalize the monetary interests. For example, plantif puts $x into the put, and defendent puts $y dollars into the put, then the pot is split, and each side can go and buy the best lawyer they can find with the resulting funds. There - money now does not play as an important role in a court case.

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Reziac (43301) * on Thursday March 04, 2010 @10:51PM (#31366890) Homepage Journal

    My long-ago lawyer once told me that, especially when the trial is about something most people know nothing about, generally a judge trial is preferable, because "then you only have to convince one ignorant idiot, instead of having to convince 12 ignorant idiots".

    I haven't sat on a jury but I've been rejected for jury duty a few times, and all too often the old saw reflects reality. I did notice that there is active selection toward people who DON'T think too long, too hard, or too much. :(

    BTW good for your mom, an honest woman of her convictions.

  • Re:Good and bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday March 04, 2010 @11:04PM (#31367022)
    I took something else away from it too: the jury has the ultimate control over deciding whether a crime was committed. It can be illegal for you to chew gum, but it'll take a full jury to be willing to convict you. For example, in Michigan, it's a felony to commit adultery (750.30). I suppose adultery is about as common here as anywhere else, but guess how many people are tried for it... Juries are the reason draconian laws aren't enforced.

    Unfortunately, that's no longer the case. US judges now instruct juries that nullification is illegal (i.e. that they can only judge the facts, not the law), and remove jurists who indicate that they are aware of their rights to nullify, or intend to exercise them.

    The last barrier to abusive government is being dismantled. Which is why we now have an explosion in laws that many (most?) consider to be unjust - marijuana possession, non-commercial copyright infringement, etc.

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader

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