July 31, 2003
Love It Is

So Pac Bell is my DLS provider and while I don't share files, they are defending my privacy (against the RIAA subpoenas) according to Ron Harris/AP. It's all so gallant:

In the complaint, PBIS maintains it only acts as a "passive conduit" for the activity of its subscribers and "does not initiate or direct the transmission of those files and has no control over their content or destination."

Not to mention: PBIS claims that more than 200 subpoenas seeking file-sharers' e-mail addresses were issued from the wrong court of jurisdiction. Moreover, PBIS said the recording industry's demand for information on multiple file-sharers cannot be grouped under one subpoena, and that the demands themselves are overly broad.

On the other hand: The recording industry disagreed late Wednesday, in statement given to The Associated Press.

"We are disappointed that Pac Bell has chosen to fight this, unlike every other ISP which has complied with their obligations under the law. We had previously reached out to SBC to discuss this matter but had been rebuked," the statement read.

It's tough performing an heroic cyberdeed, not to mention doing the right thing. Bravisimo, PacBell!

Update: more love! Senator launches investigation into RIAA piracy crackdown per Frederick Frommer/AP. "I recognize the very legitimate concerns about copyright infringement," Norm Coleman said in a conference call with reporters(He's the chairman of the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations and a Minnesota Republican who was a rock roadie in the 1960s, as well as Napster user before it was declared illegal). "This is theft. But I'm worried that the industry is using a shotgun approach." See "more" below for Coleman's letter to Cary Sherman/RIAA. The RIAA has agreed to turn over the info.

Update (080303): here is Coleman's press release.

Coleman's letter to Cary Sherman:

July 31, 2003

Mr. Cary Sherman, President
Recording Industry Association of America
1330 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Mr. Sherman:

On June 25, 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) announced plans to file "thousands of lawsuits charging individual peer-to-peer music distributors with copyright infringement."

According to press reports, the RIAA has won at least 911 subpoenas since June 26, 2003 in order to garner information for the civil lawsuits that could be filed against consumers who are alleged to have illegally used file-sharing programs. These lawsuits would seek civil penalties from $750 to $150,000 per song. The RIAA asserts that only those who traffic in "substantial" numbers of files will be targeted.

However, when filing an application for a subpoena, the RIAA does not differentiate between nominal file sharers and those who trade dozens or hundreds of files. Subpoenas have been won for computer users who shared as few as five songs.

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 like Boston College, DePaul University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Individuals like Bob Barnes, a grandfather from Fresno, California, are not immune from devastating financial loses. Mr. Barnes is facing $45 million in penalties for downloading some of his "oldie" favorites.

This barrage of RIAA subpoenas is creating such a backlog at the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, that the Court has been forced to reassign clerks to process the paperwork. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the D.C. District Courthouse is "functioning more like a clearing house, issuing subpoenas for all over the country."

Surely it was not Congress' intent when it passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to short-circuit due process protections, relegate a U.S. District Court to providing "rubber-stamp" subpoenas, enable the music industry to collect information about consumers with little or no restrictions, and place numerous average consumers at risk of bankruptcy.

The industry has legitimate concerns about copyright infringement. It is imperative to note that we are dealing with stealing artists' songs and the industry's profits. The industry has every right to develop practical remedies for protecting its rights. Yet, the industry seems to have adopted a "shotgun" approach that could potentially cause injury and harm to innocent people who may simply have been victims of circumstance, or possessed a lack of knowledge of the rules related to digital sharing of files. I am sure it is not the industry's intent to needlessly cause harm in its efforts to legally protect its rights. Yet, the law of unintended consequences may be at work in this matter.

As you may know, I have an abiding interest in protecting the privacy rights of individuals. Clearly, I do not condone illegal activity, however I am confident that there may be a more circumspect and narrowly tailored method that RIAA could utilize to prevent substantial illegal file sharing. As a former prosecutor, I know first hand the power of a subpoena and I am concerned about the potential for abuse in the current system.

Given these concerns, please provide the following documents and narrative responses to the Subcommittee no later than Thursday, August 14, 2003:

1) Copies of all subpoenas issued to Internet Service Providers (ISP) requesting information about subscribers

2) A description of the standard that RIAA is using when filing an application for a subpoena against an ISP with a U.S. District Court

3) A description of the methodology RIAA is using to secure evidence of potentially illegal file sharing by computer users.

4) A description of the privacy safeguards RIAA is using when securing this information in an effort to prevent unfair targeting of de minimus users

5) A description of how RIAA is protecting the rights of individuals from erroneous subpoenas.

If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Ray Shepherd, Subcommittee Staff Director, at (202) 224-3721. Thank you in advance for your prompt response to this request.


Norm Coleman
Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
Committee on Governmental Affairs
United States Senate

Posted by Mary Hodder at July 31, 2003 10:21 AM | TrackBack
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