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AP, news groups urge court webcast in music case

Fourteen news organizations, including The brief filed Thursday in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals argues that allowing webcasting of the Feb. 24 hearing is in the public interest, and is in keeping with camera access already granted in the courts.

The Recording Industry Association of America is appealing a Boston judge’s decision to allow the webcast, which it says goes against federal court guidelines on cameras and threatens its ability to get a fair trial.

“It is hard to imagine a hearing more deserving of public scrutiny through the same technological medium that is at the heart of this litigation,” the news organizations said in their brief to the appeals court.

The copyright infringement lawsuit is part an effort by the RIAA to stop online music sharing. Since 2003, it has filed civil lawsuits against about 35,000 people who allegedly swapped songs online.

Charles Nesson a Harvard Law School professor representing Boston University graduate student Joel Tenenbaum is challenging the constitutionality of the lawsuits.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner approved Nesson’s request to allow a courtroom video service to transmit the hearing to Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society which would stream it unedited on its Web site with free access. Gertner has said the RIAA also can subscribe to the video feed and stream it on a Web site of its choosing under the same conditions.

New organizations argued in their brief there was “nothing inherently harmful” in camera access to oral arguments, and countered the RIAA’s claim that online streaming could be manipulated, saying the potential to edit video is no different from the potential to edit transcripts or a reporter’s own notes. The news groups said the webcast would allow for more accurate reporting.

The news groups filing the brief also included Courtroom Television Network, Dow Jones & Co, Gannett Co. Inc., The Hearst Corp, Incisive Media National Public Radio, NBC Universal Inc., Radio-Television News Directors Association The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press The E.W. Scripps Co, Tribune Co., and Washington Post Digital.

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