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10/13/2003
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Go Away, RIAA

Cable company says it won't give up customer names to music-industry group

Charter Communications is the first cable operator to challenge the Recording Industry Association of America's subpoena campaign against individuals it suspects of illegally downloading music files. Charter filed motions in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis last week seeking to block the RIAA from obtaining the identities of 150 Charter customers.

Charter's filing follows similar challenges from phone companies Verizon Communications and Pacific Bell Internet Services. All claim that the RIAA's use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to file the subpoenas violates the constitutional rights of their customers. The RIAA last month also subpoenaed some 261 individual file-swappers for engaging in illegal distribution of copyrighted music.

Charter executives declined to comment on the suits, but the company issued a statement indicating it had notified all of the customers in question to alert them that they'd been targeted. The RIAA also issued a written statement claiming that Charter's suit contradicted past assurances from the company that it would cooperate with the subpoenas. It also said the copyright-infringement provisions of the copyright act dictate that Internet service providers must reveal the identities of customers who violate the act.

Verizon, the first ISP to be targeted, was compelled to give up its customers names in a ruling by the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. Verizon has appealed that decision.

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