From the this-is-probably-a-conflict-of-interest-department comes a story from TorrentFreak on U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell. Apparently, before she was a U.S. District Court judge, Howell was a Recording Industry Association of America lobbyist and helped with the DMCA.
Howell’s resume shows that she is very familiar with U.S. copyright laws. In fact, she may have helped write some of them. She served as General Counsel of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and helped draft several prominent intellectual property protection laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Deterrence Act and the No Electronic Theft Act – according to TorrentFreak.
This may explain a ruling she made last week in which she gave lawyers representing rights holders carte blanche to retrieve the identities of thousands of BitTorrent users. Attorney Robert Cashman, who represents several defendants in similar cases, calls her decision an unfortunate precedent:
“I believe the judge is giving the plaintiff attorneys the benefit of the doubt on all accounts, which is unfortunate because she is turning a blind eye to the abuses defendants are suffering with threats and harassment while plaintiff attorneys attempt to scare them into a settlement,” Cashman told TorrentFreak.
Up until 2009 Howe was Executive Managing Director and General Counsel at Stroz Friedberg, a consulting firm that specializes in the management of digital crimes. Certainly, her decision will help that firm in its efforts to crack down on file-sharers. TorrentFreak adds that the leading lobbyist on record for the RIAA was Beryl Howell, who was paid $415,000 between 2004 and 2008.
How Howe has not recused herself from this case is beyond me. Is she hoping to have one of her many copyright infringement cases kicked up to the Supreme Court for review? If that is what she intends then congratulations to Howe, because it’s going to happen eventually.