The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is hot on the heels of file swappers, namely those who trade music files with popular programs such as KaZaA. If you, or someone on your network has been swapping loads of music files, the RIAA might deliver a subpoena in an attempt to force network operators (including colleges, businesses, and ISPs), to disclose who was using a particular IP address or screen name while logged on to a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network.
RIAA has either obtained, or is trying to obtain, hundreds of subpoenas in an effort to stop the file swappers who trade the most files. The company is seeking damage payments from people who obtain artist's music without paying for it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) thinks RIAA has gone overboard in its attempts to litigate a solution. EFF is monitoring RIAA to detect any invasions of privacy through misidentification. The foundation has also provided a database so people can try to determine whether RIAA might be targeting their networks or find people using similar screen names.
"The recording industry continues its futile crusade to sue thousands of the over 60 million people who use file sharing software in the U.S.," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "We hope that EFF's subpoena database will give people some peace of mind and the information they need to challenge these subpoenas and protect their privacy."
"EFF is also documenting the scope of privacy invasions committed by the RIAA," explained EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "EFF's subpoena database will help document the damage done to innocent people misidentified as copyright infringers in the RIAA's overzealous campaign."
An EFF spokesperson said in a press release that "a username appearing in the database does not confirm absolutely that the RIAA has issued a subpoena seeking the name of a particular person, since file sharing services support duplicate usernames as well as allow multiple people to use the same account or same computer. Nor do the records in database reflect all subpoenas issued, due to lags between issuance and entry into the court's electronic record system by court employees. The EFF subpoena database also permits people to check if the recording industry named their Internet address, known as an IP address, in a subpoena."
EFF has also partnered with the US Internet Industry Association and other organizations to help develop what they call the Subpoena Defense Alliance, which is designed to assist ISPs and consumers who are faced with RIAA subpoenas.
People who wonder whether their IP address or screen name might be in the EFF database can visit the foundation's Web site to perform a search.