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Pacific Bell Sues Recording Industry for Customer Privacy

July 31, 2003

Pacific Bell Sues Recording Industry for Customer Privacy

Electronic Frontier Foundation Supports ISP Resistance

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.

Links:

Contact:

Cindy Cohn
  Legal Director

  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  cindy@eff.org
  +1 415 436-9333 x108 (office)

Gwen Hinze
  Staff Attorney
  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  gwen@eff.org
  +1 415 436-9333 x110 (office)

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