Wednesday, March 30, 2011

RIAA lobbyist now hearing cases of interest to RIAA

There are times when it might be hard to find a judge who is not only impartial, but can be seen, clearly, to be impartial - if, for example, a lawsuit is brought against an ubervillain who planned to kill everyone on the planet, you'd have to have a judge with an interest. Or if Piers Morgan was in the dock, it'd be impossible to find a judge who didn't start from the thought 'let's throw the book at him'.

But usually, it shouldn't be beyond the wit of the justice system to offer have a bottom on the bench who doesn't appear to be tainted in one direction or another.

How, then, are unlicensed file sharing cases being heard in Washington DC by a judge who has made a living lobbying for the RIAA?

Ars Technica suggests that Beryl Howell hasn't strictly broken any rules in hearing the cases, mainly because Howell was paid by the RIAA and the cases she was hearing were related to movies, but given that rulings on .mp4 files can have influence on cases about .mp3 files that seems a slight defence.

There's an important point about perception of the law. Even if Howell is able to hear a case from the copyright industry without recalling that her rent was paid for a while by the copyright industry, her verdicts in this field will always have a shadow on them.

There's no shortage of judges. Couldn't they find one whose judgement isn't open to the suspicion that they're remembering those who helped them on their march to the bench?

[via @simonth]

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