Pacific Bell sues, senator questions RIAA

Requests by the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) for Internet service providers to give up hundreds of names of customers allegedly downloading music files has run into backlash, with a U.S. senator questioning the practice and a second major ISP filing a lawsuit.

Senator Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, spoke out last week with concerns about the RIAA's "shotgun" approach to filing administrative subpoenas authorized by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). A day earlier, Pacific Bell Internet Services, a subsidiary of SBC Communications Inc., filed a lawsuit against the RIAA and two other organizations after Pacific Bell received more than 200 subpoenas asking for the identities of its customers.

The RIAA responded by statement to both actions, saying it would comply with Coleman's request for information on the subpoenas. The information will confirm that the RIAA's actions are consistent with U.S. law, the RIAA said.

"(The information) will demonstrate that our enforcement program, one part of a multi-pronged strategy, is an appropriate and measured response to the very serious problem of blatant copyright infringement confronting the entire music community," the RIAA statement said.

The DMCA allows copyright holders to subpoena ISPs for the names of people they believe are using their copyrighted material without permission. These subpoenas are issued by a court clerk without a judge's action, but Pacific Bell and other critics have suggested the subpoenas could be abused by anyone, including stalkers and rapists, who claimed to be copyright holders.

"We really believe that anyone who can take the time to fill out a form letter can get it stamped by the court clerk and get the name of an Internet user," said Larry Meyer, a spokesman for SBC. "The potential for abuse is very great."

For the past year, Verizon Internet Services Inc. has been fighting two subpoenas from the RIAA and has lost in court twice. Verizon turned over the names of the alleged downloaders in early June but promised to keep fighting the DMCA subpoenas.

The Pacific Bell lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asks that the subpoenas be declared invalid, Meyer said. The company filed the lawsuit last week because several of the RIAA subpoenas had last week as their deadlines, he said.

Pacific Bell is also fighting demands from copyright infringement tracker MediaForce that it cancel the subscriptions of "thousands" of its customers and a subpoena from adult-themed entertainment company Titan Media, which demanded the names of 50 Pacific Bell customers. The MediaForce demands suggest the ISP should cancel customer accounts on "their word alone," Meyer said.

"This lawsuit is about protecting the privacy rights of our customers," he added.

The RIAA called Pacific Bell's arguments against the subpoenas "old news," with the company "recycling many of the same arguments" already rejected in the Verizon case.

"It's unfortunate that they have chosen to litigate this, unlike every other ISP which has complied with their obligations under the law," an RIAA statement said. "We had previously reached out to SBC to discuss this matter, but had been rebuked. This procedural gambit will not ultimately change the underlying fact that when individuals engage in copyright infringement on the Internet, they are

not anonymous and service providers must reveal who they are."

Meanwhile, Coleman, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, wrote a letter to the RIAA asking it for a copy of all the DMCA subpoenas it has requested, a description of the methodology the RIAA is using to find evidence of illegal file sharing, and other information.

Coleman said in a statement he does not support illegal file trading, but there may be a "more circumspect and narrowly tailored method" for the RIAA to go after file downloaders.

"The industry seems to have adopted a shotgun approach that could potentially cause injury and harm to innocent people who may have simply been victims of circumstance, or possessing a lack of knowledge of the rules related to digital sharing of files," Coleman said in a statement. "The RIAA subpoenas have snared unsuspecting grandparents whose grandchildren have used their personal computers, individuals whose roommates have shared their computers, as well as colleges and universities across the United States," the statement said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?