RIAA challenged by ISP

Excessive punishment


The excessive use of force in the RIAA's jihad against music swappers has led to a call for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to be re-examined.

While Republican Senator Norm Coleman doesn't doubt that sharing music is "theft", he says the RIAA's methods are inappropriate. "In this country we don't cut off people's hands when they steal," he said. "One question I have is whether the penalty here fits the crime."

After Verizon lost an important ruling earlier in the summer, the RIAA has filed suit against several ISPs demanding the identity of hundreds of music lovers using file-sharing networks. Most providers have complied, but on Wednesday one of the most important, SBC fought back. The SBC has filed suit in San Francisco against the RIAA claiming that the subpoenas violate due process.

Crucially, the RIAA's influence has won it the support of the current US Department of Justice. As Thomas C Greene argued here, the wording of the DMCA doesn't allow Judges much leeway, throwing the burden onto the defendant to argue on narrow technicalities. "This type of burden-lifting doesn't directly contradict the Fourth Amendment -- merely 230 years of case law, which the DoJ has conveniently neglected to recall."

SBC has some market clout. It's the marriage of three Baby Bells, two of which serve large markets in California and Texas, and is a monopoly DSL wholesaler where it operates. But that's unlikely to be enough.®

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