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NetCoalition Requests Answers From RIAA

Washington, DC, August 11, 2003 -- NetCoalition, a leading public policy alliance of Internet companies, today formally requested that the Recording Industry Association of America provide information regarding its new subpoena campaign against alleged Internet file sharers. The RIAA has announced plans to file thousands of lawsuits against people they suspect may have illegally downloaded copyrighted works. In preparation for these suits, the RIAA has already filed close to 1,000 subpoenas seeking the identity of alleged copyright violators.

In a letter dated August 11, 2003 addressed to RIAA president Cary Sherman, NetCoalition Executive Director Kevin McGuiness expressed the coalition's support for strong copyright protection, but questioned the validity of RIAA's legal strategy. "We strongly support the right of copyright owners to protect their works, but there is a real potential for abuse with what the RIAA is doing," McGuiness said. "Handling a single subpoena request is costly for Internet companies. They are not equipped, nor should they be, to assess the legality or validity of these claims, especially when the privacy rights of their subscribers are at risk," he continued. "This initiative could force providers to raise the price of Internet access simply to fund the RIAA's legal fishing expedition."

The letter goes on to outline its concerns surrounding the critical precedent-setting nature of the RIAA campaign. Others are already beginning to copy the strategy, with no guarantee of the legitimacy or accuracy of the claims, setting the stage for a virtual deluge of subpoenas from anyone and everyone claiming copyright infringement. The coalition believes some of these concerns could be addressed if the RIAA were willing to share the substance and intent of the campaign, much of which remains a mystery, and outlined eighteen basic questions that seek to provide ISPs with information about the subpoena campaign.

"Very little is known or understood about this initiative, how individuals are being targeted, what's being done with the information, who pays for compliance, or how this information is protected," McGuiness said. "ISPs and their subscribers, whose privacy they are committed and contracted to protect, deserve to know the truth about what is happening to them." The letter points out there already have been examples of mistakes in the RIAA's subpoena requests, and that there is no judicial oversight for the subpoena demands.

NetCoalition concluded by expressing its willingness to work with the RIAA and other interested parties to find an equitable balance among the rights of copyright holders and the interests of Internet consumers and companies. Said McGuiness, "there has to be a better answer than litigation."