Pac Bell Sues RIAA Over File-Sharing Subpoenas

Pacific Bell Internet Services jumped into the contentious music-downloading fray yesterday (July 30), filing a federal lawsuit against the recording industry and questioning the constitutionality of

Pacific Bell Internet Services jumped into the contentious music-downloading fray yesterday (July 30), filing a federal lawsuit against the recording industry and questioning the constitutionality of the industry's effort to track down online music sharers.

PBIS, the California Internet service provider of San Antonio-based SBC Communications Inc., alleges that many of the subpoenas served against it by the Recording Industry Association of America were filed improperly.

The recording industry association has filed at least 871 subpoenas this month in U.S. District Court in Washington, demanding information from universities and Internet service providers about users of the online file sharing network KaZaA.

PBIS claims the 154 subpoenas seeking file-sharers' e-mail addresses were issued from the wrong jurisdictions. Moreover, PBIS said the recording industry's demand for information on multiple file-sharers cannot be grouped under one subpoena, and that the demands themselves are overly broad.

In the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, PBIS maintains it only acts as a "passive conduit" for the activity of its subscribers and "does not initiate or direct the transmission of those files and has no control over their content or destination."

The San Francisco-based company is seeking a declaration that the subpoenas are overly broad in scope and should have been issued by a California district court, not the District of Columbia. The complaint also seeks a jury trial.

In a statement, the RIAA called the lawsuit "procedural gamesmanship" and insisted that Internet service providers must reveal the identities of online copyright infringers.

This spring, following a challenge by Verizon Communications Inc., a federal judge affirmed the constitutionality of a law allowing music companies to force Internet providers to release the names of suspected music pirates upon subpoena from any federal court clerk's office. Verizon has appealed.


AP LogoCopyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.