- By David Kravets
- June 7, 2011 |
- 9:55 am
The Senate late Monday confirmed former Recording Industry Association of America lawyer Donald Verrilli Jr.to serve as the nation’s solicitor general.
Verilli, the White House deputy counsel, assumes the powerful position left vacant by Elena Kagan, who was elevated to the Supreme Court last year. The vote was 72-16 after lawmakers brokered a last-minute deal to avoid a threatened filibuster.
The solicitor general is charged with defending the government before the Supreme Court, and files friend-of-the court briefs in cases in which the government believes there is a significant legal issue. The office also determines which cases it will bring to the Supreme Court for review. Verrilli had told senators that he would resign if Obama asked him to take a position “based on partisan political considerations or other illegitimate reasons.”
Verrilli, one of at least five former RIAA attorneys appointed to the administration, is best known for leading the recording industry’s legal charge against music- and movie-sharing site Grokster. That 2003 case ultimately led to Grokster’s demise, when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a lower court’s pro-RIAA verdict. Grokster produced a legal foundation which the RIAA used against file sharing service LimeWire, which shuttered last year and agreed to pay the labels $115 million to settle a lawsuit.
The elevation comes as lawmakers are moving to bolster copyright laws, and as federal authorities employ constitutionally suspect measures toward that end.
Until recently, Verrilli also was leading Viacom’s ongoing and flailing $1 billion copyright-infringement fight against YouTube.
A court dismissed the case last year, a decison Viacom is appealing. Viacom claims YouTube committed copyright infringement because it did not police the video-sharing site for copyright works uploaded by its users.
Meanwhile, Verrilli in 2008 told a federal judge in Minnesota that merely making copyright works available on file sharing networks amounted to copyright infringement — and that no proof of somebody else downloading those files was required.
That argument came in the first of three iterations of the infamous Jamie Thomas file sharing case brought by the RIAA. The judge eventual declared a mistrial of the first jury’s $220,000 civil judgment for sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.
Two more trials later, a third jury has rendered a $1.5 million verdict against Thomas for sharing the same two dozen tracks.