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The Courts

Judge May Take "Fair Use" Away From Jury 342

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In what I can only describe as a shocker, the Judge in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum has, on her own, issued an order questioning whether the jury will be allowed to decide the 'fair use' issue at all, or whether the Judge herself should decide it. Judge Nancy Gertner's decision (PDF) notes that the courts have traditionally submitted the fair use defense to the jury, but questions whether that was appropriate, since the courts have referred to it as an 'equitable' — as opposed to a 'legal' — defense. This decision came from out of the blue, as neither party had raised this issue. IMHO the Judge is barking up the wrong tree. For one, all across the legal spectrum in the US, 'equitable' defenses to 'legal' claims are triable to a jury. Secondly, as the Judge herself notes, the courts have traditionally submitted the issue to the jury. It also seems a bit unfair to bring up a totally new issue like that and give the parties only 6 days to do their research and writing on the subject, at a time when they are feverishly preparing for a July 27th trial."

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