Is RIAA 'Verizon' subpoena a new form of SPAM?

By Jon Newton 2/01/03

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) spends a lot of time trying to convince the entertainment industry at large, not to speak of the Big Five record companies in particular, that it's hard-core leading edge. That may be. The question is, however, the leading edge of what?

It's certainly been to the fore in leading its clients up the garden path when it comes to p2p and the most effective way to deal with it, and there's no doubt the RIAA's spokespeople are high on the list of the world's most practiced and efficient reality adjustors.

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With RIAA boss Hilary 'Reach Out' Rosen's imminent departure slated, that may change, but in the meanwhile, is the music industry trade organ now among the first companies in the world to indulge in a new form of Spamming?

The RIAA is currently going blue trying to get the name of a Verizon user who, it says, used Kazaa to download music. Verizon doesn't want to oblige the RIAA with the user's name, an RIAA subpoena to do so notwithstanding. Whether Verizon's motivation centers on a genuine concern for user privacy, or its bottom line, is beside the point.

Peter Swire was former US president Bill Clinton's chief counsellor for privacy in the then US Office of Management and Budget. These days he's a professor Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University. And not at all incidentally, he's also just submitted a declaration in the case of the RIAA -v- Verizon, pending in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

"The case began when the RIAA issued a subpoena to Verizon, demanding to know the identity of one of Verizonís Internet customers," says Swire in a statement. "The RIAA suspected that Verizonís customer was offering music files on his or her computer for distribution to other 'peer-to-peer' music swapping on the Internet.

"The RIAA brought this case under the previously untested subpoena provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)."

So? Is there something wrong with that?

There certainly is, declares Swire, who supports Verizonís request for a stay of the courtís previous order to reveal the Verizon customer's ID.

Urging the court to reconsider its decision, he says:

And ...

Excellent question.

For now, go here to read the declaration, or here for complete EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) filings on the case.

If you have any thoughts on this, email us here.

Jon Newton is the editor of and is a regular contributer to MP3 Newswire. Jon's site is devoted to the politics of digital music and his insights as well as those of his co-writers can be read there. We urge you to explore it.

Other MP3 Stories:
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The MP3 Losers of 2002
The MP3 Winners of 2002

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