Charlie Nesson & The Emperor’s New Clothes

The much-anticipated trial in the RIAA music-downloading lawsuit against BU student Joel Tenenbaum started Monday in federal court in Boston before Judge Nancy Gertner.  Tenenbaum is represented pro bono by “Billion-Dollar Charlie” Nesson of Harvard Law School, assisted by a team of law students.  From the start Nesson has appeared more interested in the spectacle of doing battle with the RIAA than in counseling his client.   His challenge to the constitutionality of the RIAA’s claims went nowhere, the First Circuit shot down his motion to stream video of the proceedings (an unfortunate ruling), Judge Gertner tossed his proposed fair use defense on the eve of trial (fair use was unsuccessful in the Napster, MyMP3, Grokster, and all other music-sharing cases in which it was raised and there is no reason to believe the court should have allowed it here), and Nesson’s opening statement relied on the theory that “all the kids are downloading music–that’s just what kids do!”  His approach to the case has been inexplicable, if bizarrely entertaining.

Then Joel Tenenbaum took the stand yesterday and admitted infringing the plaintiff’s copyrights by downloading the music files at issue.  To put it more simply, he admitted liability for copyright infringement.  Last night Judge Gertner granted the RIAA’s motion for a directed verdict, a 2xz4 upside the defense team’s head.  The only thing left to try is the amount of the RIAA’s damages.   Maybe Nesson thinks he will convince the jury to award $1 for each incident of infringement.  If he does I will give him kudos for brilliant lawyering.

Splashes in the Dark

I arrived at the lake a few minutes after midnight after teaching the first class in Current Topics in Law and Ethics at the Chelmsford “campus,” a pleasant suite of classrooms and offices in a suburban office building.  I parked my car in the shade outside the first-floor classroom, windows and sunroof open, to keep an eye on the dogs.  The drive north was much longer than I expected.  I unpacked, opened windows to air out the stuffy interior, found a towel and flashlight, and went to the dock.  The moon had not risen.  Stars dotted the sky, the Milky Way a pale smudge.  Walking parallel to the lake I heard a distinct splash hear shore.  A fish?  I heard another splash, then another, and then more as I walked on the dock.  They didn’t sound like the splashes fish make when they jump, and there were too many. I listened mystified, playing the flashlight beam over the lake’s glassy surface.   There was a splash to my right.  I  turned and saw concentric ripples and, at the edge of my vision, a flitting shadow.  I heard another splash in front, then one to my left, and I understood.  Bats were darting about catching insects, swooping low, drinking from the lake, then resuming their hunt.  I raptly watched and listened for ten minutes. The lake and night were perfectly still, no sounds save the cries of loons and the splashes from the leathery flying acrobats.   I broke from my reverie and dove in.  Unfortunately my splash was louder than the bats’.  It alarmed the dogs back in the house, who starting barking.  They wouldn’t stop until I walked back and shushed them.

New Old Site

A Foolish Consistency and AFC Legal Resources have been intermittently broken since last Thursday.  Users may have been able to read it but I have been unable to write or edit posts or administer the site.  After 27 back-and-forth emails to Bluehost tech support produced no fix I resorted to the nuclear option.  I backed up the database, deleted the existing WordPress installation (the roots of which go back to this blog’s birth three years ago), and reinstalled the latest stable version of WordPress over the old database.  I must reinstall some plugins and change some settings, but the site should be back.

Spammers and Scammers and Trolls, Oh My

I have not used eBay often, and have not even visited it in years.  I am always interested whenan  iconic Internet presence loses its wheels, so Bruce Schneier’s brief account of his difficulties selling a laptop on eBay captured my attention.  He linked to a longer saga of seller’s woe prosaically titled “It’s Now Completely Impossible to Sell a Laptop on eBay.” Its recommendation: “try CraigsList or a flyer in your neighborhood. EBay is broken.”

Call me Mr. Glass Half Empty.  There is a thesis here, about the de-evolution of popular websites and degradation of human interaction online.

Close Call

I am aware of my mortality and fragility every time I get on the bike.  Road rash–a benign euphamism for what happens when skin meets pavement–and a cracked bone in my thumb are the worst of it for me.  I have been lucky.  Our recent bike trip was accident-free, with one near-miss in particular.  We were approaching Burlington, VT on Route 7, a busy multi-lane state road, preparing to take a left turn and a quieter route.  Six of us were on bikes, seeking a clearing in the traffic to move from the far right into the left-hand-turn lane.  I was second from the front.  I singled for the left turn, then looked back to see if I had room to move over.  I saw behind me four bikers in the middle lane, moving further to the left, with traffic slowed to allow them to proceed.  Perfect, I thought, and angled left.  Just as I started to move Fred, in front of me, yelled “WATCH OUT!”  I straightened the bike and looked to my left.  There was a car, traveling perhaps at 20 mph, in the spot where I would have been had Fred not shouted the warning.  Driving was a woman in her early 20s, her left hand on the wheel and right hand manipulating buttons on a cell phone, at which she stared intently.  She had woven through the four bikers behind me and was oblivious to my presence a few feet from her passenger window–and nearly on her front bumper.  I suggested a solo activity she might enjoy amid the chorus of yells and exclamations.  She responded to the situation with a flip of her middle finger–I can’t recall whether it was the driving or cell phone hand–and drove on.