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6/22/2007
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RIAA Request For Music Downloaders' Identities Denied

A judge said the RIAA will have to work with the university to notify the students that have been sued before it can gather information about them.

A New Mexico judge has told the Recording Industry Association of America that it must do more to respect the rights of defendants in file-sharing lawsuits.

The judge decided this week to deny the RIAA's request for the students' identities before the students themselves are notified. The decision creates more work for the RIAA as it tries to sue students for allegedly downloading music illegally.

The RIAA has been targeting college campuses as hubs of illegal peer-to-peer file sharing recently. Earlier this month, the group announced that it had sent 395 pre-litigation settlement letters to 19 universities.

In order to sue students, the industry association names "John Does." Then, it subpoenas universities for information that will help identify the students who it claims have downloaded copyrighted music without paying for it.

New Mexico Judge Lorenzo Garcia said the RIAA can continue pursuing its case against University of New Mexico students but it must figure out a way that respects their legal rights to limit discovery. That means the RIAA will have to work with the university to notify the students that have been sued before it can gather information about them.

Garcia pointed out that defendants have legal rights to limit disclosure of information and object to subpoenas.

"As the Plaintiffs do not presently know the identity of the Defendants, there is no reasonable way to ensure that those prospective Defendants are given notice or even an opportunity to respond in opposition to the request for disclosure," Garcia wrote. "Rather, Plaintiffs seek to obtain information directly from the University of New Mexico. Plaintiffs propose that the University will be able to notify subscribers that a subpoena was served. However, the Court needs to ensure that subscribers actually receive notification and are given a reasonable opportunity to intervene in order to stop the disclosure of sensitive information."

The ruling appears to be the first of its kind in a series of cases the RIAA has brought against college students.

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