Thursday, July 30, 2009

Corporate Punishment

Though my previous post tries to address the Tenenbaum copyright infringement suit by way of a rough sort of social theory, in the end the case (like everything else in life, really) plays out as just another scene from the family drama. According to script, plaintiffs' attorney Reynolds spent a good hour excoriating defendant Tenenbaum for disrespect: of the truth,  of his college handbook, of the lawyer who deposed him, and ultimately of the conglomerate corporations that sell recordings. Reynolds is the earnest-dad type,  super-serious, with a crisp white shirt and a little bald spot on top. He has the habit of biting his lower lip just slightly while preparing to light into his next line of questioning. Watching as a rogues' gallery of exhibits, depositions, interrogatories, and screenshots flashed across the courtroom monitors, you knew Tenenbaum wouldn't be turned loose from the witness stand until he was very, very sorry. In fact I felt my stomach tighten--a traumatic flashback from those times long ago when my own father would lower the boom on us for some egregious infraction.

But wait. That's not Joel Tennenbaum in the picture, or rather, it is and it isn't. Tilt the image and refocus, and you may see that actually the bad boy here is defendant's attorney Nesson, and that's Judge Gertner chastising him on behalf of the law, the court, and the rules of procedure. No political speeches, she's telling him, no narratives, no unfocused questions, no fair use defense, no, you may not approach the bench. Whack!--whack!--whack! 

No, I'm wrong. Look again and you'll see that the child in the picture is actually the consuming public, that is, you and me. We're all being disciplined by this case, by the RIAA, by their whole posse of lawyers and consultants, and by the law itself--starting with the 30,000 file-sharers who were shaken down for $3-5000 each in out-of-court settlements. It was 'expert witness' economist Liebowitz (of the Cato institute inter alia) who connected the dots most clearly when he opined that unfettering markets always produces more goods, more profit, more pie. So that's what this case is finally about: disciplining the marketplace. By driving out all the free competition and making a deal with the itunes folks, the RIAA is funneling us back in line as paying customers. The law proves to be an effective paddle, the pain is quick and sure, the lesson learned.


At August 7, 2009 at 12:37 PM , Blogger fern and charlie nesson said...



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