Prosecutor in Jammie Thomas case joins DoJ
The lawyer who argued the only RIAA case to go all the way through the trial process has been named an Associate Attorney General for the new administration. Donald Verrilli Jr. is a senior litigator with Jenner & Block, a DC firm.
Verrilli, like several other Obama appointees to the Department of Justice, has a history of going after entities for which the entertainment industry does not care. In 2005, he represented the music industry before the Supreme Court in MGM v Grokster, which not only drove that file-sharing service into extinction but dismissed any argument that the service had significant uses other than the swapping of copyrighted works.
More recently, Verrilli is the lead lawyer working on behalf of Viacom in Viacom v. Google, the case filed in 2007 that is attempting to separate Google/YouTube and $1 billion on the grounds that YouTube is allegedly the copyright-infringing host to 160,000 Viacom videos.
Jenner & Block, which specializes in appellate cases, has also supplied the new administration with Tom Perrelli, who will serve as associate attorney general. Most observers of the copyright scene regarded that previous appointment as a loss for fair-use efforts. Perrelli was instrumental in SoundExchange's efforts to raise royalty rates for online music by as much as 250%, has served as counsel on multiple RIAA prosecutions of alleged file sharers, and is understood to have spearheaded Jenner & Block's efforts to solicit the RIAA's litigation business. In October 2008, Perrelli was awarded the Washington Business Journal's 2008 "Top Washington Lawyer" designation in the Intellectual Property category.
Obama has also nominated David Ogden as deputy attorney general (the number-two spot behind newly sworn-in Attorney General Eric Holder). Ogden is a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, and has the distinction (from his Clinton-era DoJ days) of not only defending the Sonny Bono Copyright Act before the Supreme Court but of organizing the defense of the Child Online Protection Act, which kicked around the court system in various forms for over a decade before the Court finally settled its hash last month.
The appointment of Neil MacBride, who most recently served as lead counsel at the Business Software Association, raises questions about the BSA's controversial "snitch" program, which offered employees and former employees of companies using illegally installed software financial rewards (not to mention that satisfying feeling of vengeance achieved) for finking on the bosses.
Blogosphere reaction was not so positive, and most commenters pointed out that after three of these appointments, you've got to wonder if this is a pattern -- and who, if anyone, will be nominated from the public-interest side of the debate. At Copyrights & Campaigns, Ben Sheffner agrees with other commenters who say that the picks make clear President Obama's previously somewhat murky stance on IP laws, but reminds the readership that "there's still one more big test" -- the nomination of the "Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator," or so-called "IP czar."
A number of commenters thought they discerned a hidden hand at work: "Anyone who believes avowed RIAA supporter and US vice president Joe Biden didn't have a hand in this must be in living in LaLa land," fumed Jon Newton at P2PNet. (MacBride previously served as an aide to then-Senator Biden.) However, others shrug and point to Obama's strong support in Hollywood as an equally likely factor in his appointment choices.
[Image above from Jenner & Block's Web site.]