A Harvard Law professor by the name of Charles Nesson states that P2P file sharing is fair use. He bases his claim on current law and has testified in court. The bases of his contention is this:
Wholesale copying of music on P2P networks is fair use. Statutory damages can’t be applied to P2P users. File-swapping results in no provable harm to rightsholders.
These are just some of the assertions that Harvard Law professor Charles Nesson made last week in his defense of accused file-swapper Joel Tenenbaum. In court filings, Nesson spelled out his defense strategy, which doesn’t appear to involve claims that his client “didn’t do it.” Instead, Nesson argues that it doesn’t matter if Tenenbaum copied music; such noncommercial uses are presumptively “fair” and anyone seeking to squeeze file-swappers for statutory damages is entitled to precisely zero dollars.
The strategy certainly doesn’t lack for boldness. In making the case that statutory damages only apply to commercial infringers, Nesson says that his reading of the law is “constitutionally compelled.” His most interesting argument is that the law offers rightsholders the chance to seek either statutory or actual damages, but that the two are meant to be equivalent.
“It would be a bizarre statute indeed that offered two completely unrelated remedies,” he writes, “one which granted actual damages and lost profits, and the other of which granted plaintiffs the right to drive a flock of sheep across federal property on the third day of each month.”
Wow! That is interesting. Even more interesting if the court buys it. There is more:
It’s all fair use
In any event, all of this statutory damages talk doesn’t matter, because Nesson claims that Tenenbaum’s use of the songs at issue here was “fair use” and thus not an infringement at all. It’s a gutsy move to claim that wholesale downloads of complete copyrighted works for no purpose higher than mere enjoyment of music somehow satisfies the famous “four factor test” for fair use claims, but Nesson believes he can win over a jury.
So what are the ‘four factor test?’
The four factors judges consider are:
- the purpose and character of your use
- the nature of the copyrighted work
- the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market.
So what do you think? Can this legal legalese work?