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Pacific Bell Sues RIAA
July 31, 2003

Pacific Bell Sues Recording Industry for Customer Privacy

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation today applauded a lawsuit brought by Pacific Bell Internet Services against three organizations that are manipulating copyright laws to violate the privacy of ISP customers.

The case concerns 97 subpoenas directed to Pacific Bell over the past two weeks. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has issued thousands of subpoenas to various ISPs, seeking the identity of music fans who use peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks.

The lawsuit alleges that the RIAA, along with MediaForce, a company that issues millions of "cease-and-desist" letters to ISPs, and Titan Media, a gay-themed adult entertainment company, have distorted certain provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in an attempt to force Pacific Bell to breach its customers' privacy.

Pacific Bell seeks a declaration from the court that any further subpoenas and cease-and-desist letters for peer-to-peer file sharing activity must follow some court-established safeguards ensuring that there is some evidence of illegal activity before divulging personal information about ISP customers.

"The misuse of the subpoena process by an adult entertainment company emphasizes the potential for abuse with insufficient privacy protections in the law," explained EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Without vetting by any court, companies can issue subpoenas that disclose the identities of targeted individuals and link their names to gay-themed adult porn, making it impossible for them to regain their privacy later even if the allegations are patently false."

This case highlights the privacy problems that led over 44 organizations to join with EFF in opposing the subpoena process in a similar case involving Verizon in Washington, DC, currently pending before a federal appeals court.

"The DC Court dismissed our concerns about subpoena process abuse as premature," added EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze. "The California Court will have an opportunity to consider critical privacy concerns in light of the thousands of subpoenas the RIAA has issued as a clear abuse of the subpoena process."

The RIAA's crusade has already drawn the concerned attention of Congress. Senator Coleman (R-MN) today announced an investigation into the issuance of the subpoenas and the threatened lawsuits.

EFF applauds both Pacific Bell and Senator Coleman and urges concerned citizens to learn more about ways to make filesharing legal while getting artists paid at our Let the Music Play Campaign.


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