<<A Harvard Law School professor has launched a constitutional assault against a federal copyright law at the heart of the industry's aggressive strategy, which has wrung payments from thousands of song-swappers since 2003.
The professor, Charles Nesson, has come to the defense of a Boston University graduate student targeted in one of the music industry's lawsuits.>>
<<Nesson argues that the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 is unconstitutional because it effectively lets a private group — the Recording Industry Association of America, or RIAA — carry out civil enforcement of a criminal law. He also says the music industry group abused the legal process by brandishing the prospects of lengthy and costly lawsuits in an effort to intimidate people into settling cases out of court.
Nesson, the founder of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said in an interview that his goal is to "turn the courts away from allowing themselves to be used like a low-grade collection agency.">>
<<One federal judge has held that the constitutional question is "a serious argument," Beckerman said. "There are two law review articles that have said that it is unconstitutional, and there are three cases that said that it might be unconstitutional."
In September, a federal judge granted a new trial to a Minnesota woman who had been ordered to pay $220,000 for pirating 24 songs. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis called on Congress to change copyright laws to prevent excessive awards in similar cases. He wrote that he didn't discount the industry's claim that illegal downloading has hurt the recording business, but called the award "wholly disproportionate" to the industry's losses.
In the Boston case, Nesson is due to meet attorneys for the music industry for a pretrial conference on Tuesday, ahead of a trial set for Dec. 1.>> http://tech.yahoo.com/news/ap/20081117/ap_on_hi_te/tec_music_downloading