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Politicians get Suspicious of the RIAA

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Republican senator Norm Coleman has a few questions for the RIAA. Now it seems also to dawn on politicians that the RIAA tactics might be a wee bit too harsh. While he is all for protecting the rights of the RIAA he is questioning the methods the RIAA is using. Here is the official press release:

United States Senate


Committee on Governmental Affairs

Norm Coleman, Chairman
Carl Levin, Ranking Minority Member


July 31, 2003


“Law of unintended consequences” may be needlessly threatening American citizens

WASHINGTON—Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) today began an inquiry into the tactics being employed by the Recording Industry Association of America in a crackdown on illegal file sharing that may be inadvertently targeting thousands of Americans.

Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, issued a Chairman’s Letter to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) today requesting a series of answers from the industry on the details of more than 900 subpoenas that have been issued in its efforts to combat illegal file sharing.

“The industry has legitimate concerns about copyright infringement,” concurred Coleman. “And, it has every right to develop practical remedies for protecting its rights. Yet, the industry seems to have adopted a “shotgun” approach that could potentially cause injury and harm to innocent people who may have simply been victims of circumstance, or possessing a lack of knowledge of the rules related to digital sharing of files. I am sure it is not the industry’s intent to needlessly cause harm in its efforts to legally protect its rights. Indeed, the law of unintended consequences may be at work in this matter.”

“The RIAA subpoenas have snared unsuspecting grandparents whose grandchildren have used their personal computers, individuals whose roommates have shared their computers, as well as colleges and universities across the United States like Boston College, DePaul University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” said Coleman. “Individuals like Fresno, California grandfather, Bob Barnes, are not immune from devastating financial losses. Mr. Barnes is facing $45 million in penalties for downloading some of his “oldie” favorites.”

In his “Chairman’s Letter” to RIAA, Coleman requested the following information by no later than August 14th.

1) Copies of all subpoenas issued to Internet Service Providers (ISP) requesting information about subscribers

2) A description of the standard that RIAA is using when filing an application for a subpoena against an ISP with a U.S. District Court

3) A description of the methodology RIAA is using to secure evidence of potentially illegal file sharing by computer users.

4) A description of the privacy safeguards RIAA is using when securing this information in an effort to prevent unfair targeting of de minimus users

5) A description of how RIAA is protecting the rights of individuals from erroneous subpoenas.

Coleman made it clear to industry officials that he supports their efforts to protect their legal rights, but believes that other, less intrusive and potentially destructive methods could be employed.

“As you may know, I have an abiding interest in protecting the privacy rights of individuals. Clearly, I do not condone illegal activity, however I am confident that there may be a more circumspect and narrowly tailored method that RIAA could utilize to prevent substantial illegal file sharing. As a former prosecutor, I know first hand the power of a subpoena and I am concerned about the potential for abuse in the current system.” [found at mixburnrip]

Let’s hope other politicians will follow Coleman’s example and start to speak up for the public!

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