Another ISP Fights RIAA Subpoenas

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In the latest move by an ISP to shield the identity of customers facing recording industry subpoenas, Pacific Bell Internet Services is set to square off with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in a San Francisco federal court Friday.

Pacific Bell Internet, a subsidiary of SBC Communications, is asking the court to declare invalid over 200 subpoenas issued by the RIAA. The subpoenas by the industry association of music labels call for the ISP to hand over the identities of customers who have allegedly performed illegal file-trading.

Ongoing Battle

Pacific Bell's resistance to the subpoenas comes on the heels of similar efforts by ISPs rejecting the recording industry's latest campaign against online piracy.

Verizon Internet Services also fought against RIAA subpoenas asking it to reveal the names of some of its users. The ISP claimed the legislation allowing for the subpoenas is flawed and does not afford due process for Internet users.

Verizon lost its case, however, and was forced to reveal the identities of four downloaders last June.

Pacific Bell is now set to wage a similar court battle. Privacy and civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed friend of the court briefs in the case, supporting Pacific Bell's challenge.

The RIAA, however, argues that it has solid legal ground with its subpoena campaign. The industry is holding to a portion of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act--also known as the DMCA--that allows copyright holders to subpoena ISPs without first getting a judge's permission.

The industry group has said the issues raised by Pacific Bell are the same as those posed in the Verizon case. RIAA representatives say the organization expects to win the right to demand the identities of the alleged illegal file traders.

Copyright Law Challenged

However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has issued a statement saying Pacific Bell plans to fight the subpoenas on the grounds that the portion of the law allowing them is "devoid of procedural protections that is an invitation to mistake and abuse."

Meanwhile, some U.S. senators have expressed concern over the DMCA, and have urged an investigation into the subject.

Representatives for the RIAA were not immediately available to comment on the Pacific Bell case early Friday.

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