November 2, 2007 | By Fred von Lohmann

Oregon Fights Back Against RIAA Subpoena

The Recording Industry v. The People blog reports that the University of Oregon has gone to court to fight a recording industry subpoena seeking the identities of 17 students. Oregon is not the first university to resist a boilerplate subpoena that targets students for lawsuits for file-sharing, but they are among the few that have put up a fight in court.

In its brief, the university makes 5 arguments:

1) the university is already preserving information, so no need for ex parte subpoenas;
2) the subpoena imposes an undue burden because the university cannot tell who the file-sharer was without additional investigation;
3) the language of subpoena is overbroad;
4) the FERPA bars disclosure of the identifying information; and
5) Section 512(h) of the DMCA provides the exclusive mechanism for ex parte subpoenas to ISPs in these circumstances.

The last argument, if accepted by the court, could radically change the nature of the RIAA's 4-year litigation campaign against music fans. Currently, the recording industry's strategy relies on pressuring universities into handing over student targets, either by having the university deliver "pre-litigation settlement letters" to students or, failing that, forcing universities to respond to subpoenas obtained after filing a "John Doe" lawsuit. If these avenues are blocked, the recording industry would have to undertake its own investigatory efforts to determine who to sue.

Whether the university wins or loses its effort, it's nice to see it standing up on behalf of its students, rather than simply giving in to recording industry demands.


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