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| posted on 8/28/2003 at 11:59 AM|
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From today's Washington Post:
RIAA Adopts High-Tech Gumshoe Tactics (TechNews.com)
By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, August 28, 2003; 9:28 AM
The Recording Industry Association of America has turned into a high-tech
detective agency in its quest to nab file swappers it accuses of online
The association's much-ballyhooed campaign to slap unrepentant swappers
with subpoenas and lawsuits relies on a number of tech-savvy methods to
sweep the Internet for illegal behavior, according to court papers
released yesterday. The papers are part of an ongoing RIAA quest to
identify a New York woman accused of illegally trading songs through
popular file-sharing sites.
Privacy advocates, who already smelled a controversy in the RIAA's
attempts to identify song swappers, probably won't be too happy with the
association's latest technology foray.
"Using a surprisingly astute technical procedure, the Recording Industry
Association of America examined song files on the woman's computer and
traced their digital fingerprints back to the former Napster file-sharing
service, which shut down in 2001 after a court ruled it violated copyright
laws," The Associated Press said, adding that the RIAA "found other hidden
evidence inside the woman's music files suggesting the songs were recorded
by other people and distributed across the Internet."
The unidentified woman is battling to keep her name secret, though the
RIAA wants her name, claiming that she illegally traded about 1,000 songs
on the Internet. The woman claims the songs came from her own CD
collection and her lawyer says the songs have been stripped from her
computer, the Associated Press reported. The RIAA has subpoenaed her ISP,
a unit of Verizon Communications Inc., and she is fighting to halt the
subpoena. Legal precedent might weaken her case, though, after a federal
judge earlier this year ruled that Verizon must hand over the names of
suspected file traders in response to the RIAA's demands.
More detective work snippets: In the court documents "the industry
disclosed its use of a library of digital fingerprints, called 'hashes,'
that it said can uniquely identify MP3 music files that had been traded on
the Napster service as far back as May 2000. Examining hashes is commonly
used by the FBI and other computer investigators in hacker cases." The
RIAA is also tracking so-called metadata tags that contain hidden data
inside a number of MP3 music files.
CNET's News.com said "[t]he ongoing legal skirmishes will help stabilize
the process by which the RIAA seeks the identity of file swappers, and
ultimately, files lawsuits against them. But the latest round of briefs
also gave new insight into exactly what kind of evidence the group will
level against accused file swappers in court. Technically, neither the
RIAA nor 'Nycfashiongirl,' the Kazaa user's online nickname, are supposed
to be fighting over the details of what she may have downloaded or when
and where she got the files. The only open proceeding is the subpoena for
her identity, which will be approved or blocked on different grounds. But
the filings appear to be aimed as much at the court of opinion as at the
real court bench, and both sides seem to be fighting a case that hasn't
yet been filed."
The Los Angeles Times said the RIAA's "detailed analysis of the woman's
music had little bearing on the battle over her identity. But it could
make it harder for her -- and other potential targets -- to defend against
a copyright infringement lawsuit. ... Critics of the RIAA's plan to sue
individual file sharers said the evidence offered by the RIAA is
circumstantial and doesn't prove nycfashiongirl [her online name] violated
Nycfashinongirl's lawyer is banking on privacy rights to protect his
client. "You cannot bypass people's constitutional rights to privacy, due
process and anonymous association to identify an alleged infringer,'" her
lawyer, Daniel N. Ballard, told the AP.
Ballard, according to the LA Times "argues that the 1998 Digital
Millennium Copyright Act, which gives copyright owners the ability to use
subpoenas to learn the identities of alleged infringers, violated her
constitutional rights to privacy, due process and free association.
Although U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed a constitutional
challenge to the law this year, Ballard says Bates did so without hearing
from any Internet users directly affected by the subpoenas."
The RIAA has some more ammunition in its fight. According to the paper,
"two-thirds of the songs had unique identifiers that matched songs from
the Napster database, indicating that they probably were downloaded
without permission, not copied directly from a CD that nycfashiongirl
owned. Ballard, her lawyer, said in an interview that the type of
information in the RIAA filing 'ought to be presented to a judge' and
contested before a person's identity is revealed."
The RIAA's hardball approach toward file swappers is not sitting well with
some. While Phil Leigh, an analyst and vice president of Raymond James and
Associates, told Macworld Daily News that the RIAA's litigation has help
spur "a 22 per cent drop in peer-to-peer file trading activity between
mid-June and late August. ... However, the move may also have broken the
relationship between music consumers and the labels." Leigh wrote in a
recent report: "Unfortunately, it also appears that the declining trend in
CD sales accelerated during the period of reduced file trading."
Meanwhile, a commentary in The Detroit Free Press this week argues that
before the RIAA should be allowed to reveal the identities of file
swappers, an earlier case involving Verizon Communications should be
resolved. "As a result of a recent court decision in the case between the
Recording Industry Association of America and the Internet service
provider Verizon Online, every consumer's identity, home address and phone
number are now available to anyone who can fill out a one-page form.
Congress can and should step in to fix this problem immediately," said the
opinion piece, by Peter Swire, a professor and former chief privacy
counselor for President Clinton. "The Recording Industry Association of
America lawsuits against users are beginning now, long before the appeal
of the Verizon proceeding will be decided. Before the new spam
proliferates, we should have fair procedures in place that will protect
intellectual property while protecting privacy, free speech and due
Despite critics of its legal maneuverings against file swappers, a number
of organizations have come to the defense of the RIAA in a related case.
"Several groups, including a list of legal scholars, international
copyright organizations, legal music services and other copyright holder
groups filed 'friend of the court' briefs Tuesday, asking that an April
ruling upholding the legality of file-swapping services such as Grokster
and StreamCast's Morpheus be overturned," CNET's News.com explained in an
article on Tuesday. "The briefs come as part of a renewed legal battle
over the status of file-swapping services such as Morpheus and Kazaa,
which were emboldened by federal Judge Stephen Wilson's surprise ruling in
April. In that decision, he said file-swapping companies should be
compared to VCR makers, which are not responsible for their customers'
copyright infringements." The RIAA appealed that decision, along with the
Motion Picture Association of America, and the National Music Publishers
Association, CNET said.
-----------------for those of you who abhor Ashcroft and his ways, ask yourself why the debit and credit cards you carry are set for only 56 bit encryption instead of the originally 64 bit encryption---involves the NSA.
Carlos "during the Clinton Administration, my PGP key was then 'brotherduaneallmanonslideguitar' but is now even longer" Rivera
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