Court Orders New Protections for People Targeted by RIAA

A district court in Pennsylvania has forced the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to rethink the privacy and due process rights of people it has accused of copyright infringement. The impasse arose after the music industry filed a flood of lawsuits against anonymous individuals who they claimed were sharing copyrighted music, but because the industry did not know the identities of the file sharers, it served subpoenas to the individuals’ ISPs seeking their names. The court held that before the ISPs turn over these names, they must first send notices to each file sharer advising them of their rights.

The judge ruled that the RIAA cannot sue alleged file sharers simultaneously, since they had grouped 203 of them, called “John Doe” because their identities are not yet known – into one lawsuit last month. The RIAA must now identify alleged file swappers by their Internet Protocol addresses.

On Friday a subpoena was authorised in the case of John Doe No. 1, but the RIAA will have to make separate requests to seek the identity of each of the remaining 202 alleged file sharers, and must pay court fees of $150 for each lawsuit filed.

“Piracy, both online and on the street, continues to hit the music community hard, and thousands have lost their jobs because of it”, said Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA in a recent press statement. The RIAA and its partners in the music community have continued a variety of public education efforts. These include joining with the FBI to unveil a new anti-piracy warning and seal; expanding the acclaimed “I Download…Legally” media campaign; and working with the university community to develop new programs to educate students about intellectual property laws, discourage illegal peer-to-peer use, and offer legitimate online music alternatives.

Notwithstanding, the RIAA, for the first time ever, included digital downloads in its semi-annual shipment report. For the first half of 2004, there were 58 million single tracks downloaded or burned from licensed online music services.