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Hearing in file-sharing case postponed for appeal

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A pretrial hearing in an Internet file-sharing case has been postponed this week while one side, the Recording Industry Association of…

A pretrial hearing in an Internet file-sharing case has been postponed this week while one side, the Recording Industry Association of America, fights a recent order allowing the arguments to be videotaped and carried live over the Internet.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner agreed to delay the hearing, originally scheduled for Thursday, until Feb. 24 as the RIAA raised new concerns about the plan to stream the proceedings over the Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Web page. As the association pointed out, Berkman founder Charles Nesson is representing defendant Joel Tenenbaum; the RIAA argued in a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) that requiring the public to access the Berkman site in order to view the hearing "undermines basic principles of fairness and is flatly inconsistent with the public interest."

The association contends that Gertner disregarded both local federal district rules and U.S. Judicial Conference policy in approving the Webcast, which the RIAA said would impinge on its own legal rights in court.

In the underlying lawsuit, Sony BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, Tenenbaum is accused of illegally downloading and distributing music over the Internet. The defense filed a motion asking that Courtroom View Network, a private provider, be allowed to record the hearing for distribution over the Berkman Web site. Gertner, over the plaintiffs’ objections, agreed last week, finding that the case had special meaning in the digital age.

In her order agreeing to postpone the hearing, Gertner countered that the RIAA’s arguments to the First Circuit partly came down to "questions of ‘how’ the recording will be made and distributed and not ‘whether’" they can be under the applicable rules. And the mechanics of the Webcast, she said, could easily be addressed.