Change? Obama Brings RIAA Attorney Into Administration

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Barack Obama is furiously assembling his administration, part of an urgent, pre-inaugural preparation.

Obama has been praised for quick team-building, though critics have accused the change-candidate of drawing heavily from former Clinton staffers.  That includes the most recent group of Justice Department picks, a group that includes former RIAA counsel Tom Perrelli.

Perrelli, co-chair of the entertainment and new media division at Jenner & Block, is being named to an associate attorney general post at Justice.  The Perrelli background was highlighted Wednesday by Declan McCullagh of C|Net, who contrasted the Perrelli pick to the ideologies of Obama supporters like Lawrence Lessig and Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.  Perrelli was involved in a range of RIAA suits, including those aimed at prying subscriber information from ISPs like Verizon and Charter Communications.

In some senses, Perrelli is best viewed as a legal gun, whose allegiances can switch depending on the client.  But critics may be less forgiving, especially given the emotionally-charged climate surrounding file-sharing litigation.

Perrelli also argued cases against individuals, though the RIAA is now shifting away from its legal campaign against solo swappers.  Instead, the group indicated that enforcement agreements are being forged with major ISPs, though several – including Verizon – told Digital Music News that an agreement is not in place.

Also joining the Obama Justice Department is David Ogden, a lawyer who recently played a critical role in the defense of the Copyright Term Extension Act.  Ogden is being named deputy attorney general, subject to Senate approvals.