Boston College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, citing privacy concerns, have moved to quash subpoenas issued by the recording industry to discover the identities of students accused of illegally copying music.
Jonathan Lamy, a spokesperson for the Recording Industry Association of America, vowed legal action to obtain the information. The association, which has issued hundreds of subpoenas, has asked MIT for information about one student and BC for information about three students.
“These universities have chosen to litigate this in an attempt to deny copyright holders the right so clearly granted in Congress,” Lamy told The Boston Globe.
MIT and Boston College said they support rights of copyright holders and would comply with any subpoena that addresses concerns about proper notification of students. The schools said they’re required under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act to notify students before they release personal information, such as names and addresses.
MIT also said it would wait until the subpoenas were filed in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, not in Washington. It said the subpoenas weren’t in compliance with court rules concerning the proper venue for such a filing and didn’t give the school time to send notice, as required by law.
The RIAA has filed at least 871 subpoenas in U.S. District Court in Washington this month, demanding information from universities and Internet service providers about users trading music files online. Some educational institutions have said they will comply with the subpoenas.
The strategy of pursuing small-time downloaders as well as large, high-profile users is intended as a jolt to Internet music enthusiasts. The RIAA hasn’t said what damages it would seek, but by law, it can ask for $750 to $150,000 for each illegally shared song.
Under a provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, music companies may issue the subpoenas without a judge’s approval. Internet service provider Verizon has challenged that part of the law, saying it violates users’ rights to privacy.
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