Public Trials Should Be Made Available Via Internet
By: Debbie Rosenbaum*
File-Sharing Cases in Courts Around the World
In February, the four men behind the popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay went to trial in Stockholm, Sweden. They stand accused of helping millions of Internet users illegally download protected movies, music, and computer games. The defendants – Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, and Carl Lundström – face up to two years in prison and a fine of 1.2 million kronor (US $143,529) if convicted of being accessories and conspiracy to break Swedish copyright law. The case has made headlines not only because of the substantive legal issues, but also because Defendant Peter Sunde, co-founder of The Pirate Bay, has called for the court’s proceedings to be as open as possible. The Swedish court granted Sunde’s motion to allow coverage of the proceedings without much resistance, and SVT, a public broadcaster in Sweden, has provided streaming audio webcasts webcasts of trial.
A similar situation is unfolding in the United States in a high-profile case involving issues very similar to those of The Pirate Bay case, although here there has been significant resistance for the defendant’s calls to open the proceedings to the public. Joel Tenenbaum is one of the tens of thousands of defendants being sued by the RIAA for allegedly violating their members’ copyrights by distributing files through P2P file sharing software. However, unlike the vast majority of the defendants in these cases, he chose to litigate rather than settle his case rather than settle, with the help of Harvard Law School Professor Charles Nesson and a team of his students. With Professor Nesson’s assistance, Tenenebaum filed a motion similar to Sunde’s, requesting his trial be broadcast live via the Internet. Tenenbaum’s motion asked the Court to exercise its discretion under the Court’s local rules to allow Internet access to the courtroom by authorizing the Courtroom View Network (“CVN“) to provide audio visual coverage of the proceedings in this case over the Internet.