Envision a world where a large corporation
can enter your home through your computer and obtain private
information with plans of using it against you in a court of law.
While this may seem outrageous, it does take place, and if the
Recording Industry Association of America has its way, it is
unlikely to change.

Laura Wong

Last week the RIAA sent the University notices of its intent to
subpoena the names of nine students the RIAA claims violated
copyright laws by sharing music files. Later in the week, the RIAA
filed 532 lawsuits against computer users who it believes also
infringed on copyright laws. What differentiates these lawsuits
from those filed late last year by the RIAA is that in this round
of lawsuits, defendants are now anonymous. The RIAA hopes to use
the courts to retrieve these users’ names. The Daily reported
that “By filing these lawsuits against ‘John Doe’
defendants — users designated only by their Internet protocol
addresses — (the) RIAA circumvented a decision recently made
by an appellate court limiting the use of subpoenas to obtain names
and contact information from Internet Service Providers like the
University.”

In RIAA v. Verizon Internet Services Inc., the U.S. Court
of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the 1998 Digital
Millennium Copyright Act does not grant the RIAA special subpoena
power to obtain the names of Internet users who may be sharing
music illegally and who were Verizon customers. It would not only
be a beytral of its students for the University to release the
names of the nine students, but it would also be an illegal act,
far worse than students sharing files.

The RIAA has been relentless in its pursuit of illegal file
sharers. Rather than adapt to changing technologies, it has acted
to impede its development. The U.S. judiciary deemed the
RIAA’s efforts to obtain names from Internet service
providers — which include universities, as many provide
ethernet and Internet services to their students, faculty, and
staff — through subpoenas unlawful. Despite the protection of
individual rights guaranteed through legal documents and recent
court rulings, the RIAA continues its demands, infringing on civil
liberties.

Other universities have been unwilling to provide the names of
alleged file-sharers to the RIAA. The University should follow the
same course. Delivering students’ personal information to an
association of corporations because the RIAA thinks they might be
doing something illegal is wrong and would be a betrayal of the
trust between the University and the community that uses its
networks.

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