Individual challenges RIAA subpoena

An anonymous computer user has struck back at the recording industry's recent campaign to uncover individuals illegally trading copyright music online by filing a motion challenging a subpoena asking her ISP (Internet service provider) to hand over her personal data.

The motion was filed in Washington, D.C., Thursday on behalf of a "Jane Doe" ISP subscriber in California, who claims that the industry's methods are unconstitutional and a threat to her privacy, according to the woman's lawyers.

The case represents the first challenge by an individual to the efforts of the Recording Industry Association of America Inc. (RIAA) to thwart online piracy by filing hundreds of subpoenas with ISPs across the U.S., requesting information on individual file-traders who the group believes may be guilty of copyright infringement.

Glenn Peterson and Dan Ballard, lawyers with the Sacramento-based law firm of McDonough, Holland & Allen who are representing the "Jane Doe," said in a statement that the RIAA's subpoena campaign has far-reaching implications in terms of consumer rights and privacy.

"The recent efforts of the music industry to root out piracy have addressed a uniquely contemporary problem with draconian methods -- good old fashioned intimidation combined with access to personal information that would make George Orwell blush," Peterson said in the statement.

The RIAA disputed the claims Friday.

"Nobody has a right to steal music. This individual's lawyers are trying to obtain from the court a free pass to download or upload music online illegally," Matt Oppenheim [cq], senior vice president of business and legal affairs at the RIAA said in a statement.

ISPs have also challenged the RIAA's subpoena campaign, with mixed results. In June, Verizon Internet Services Inc. finally turned over information on four alleged music downloaders after losing an appeal challenging an RIAA subpoena.

Last week, however, a federal judge decided in favor of two Massachusetts universities which had challenged RIAA subpoenas asking them to hand over information on students thought to be illegally trading music online. The judge decided that the subpoenas, which were filed in Washington, D.C., did not hold in Massachusetts.

The RIAA called the decision "a minor procedural issue" and indicated that it would re-file the petitions in the necessary courts.

"Courts have already ruled that you are not anonymous when you publicly distribute music online," Oppenheim said Friday.

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Scarlet Pruitt

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