Universities Don't Have To Help RIAA, Federal Judge Rules

Two North Carolina schools sided with students in the interest of protecting privacy.

In a blow to the record industry's effort to eradicate illegal music downloading, a federal judge has ruled that two North Carolina universities do not have to disclose the identities of two college students who allegedly file-swapped songs on the universities' computer systems.

According to The Associated Press, the Recording Industry Association of America filed subpoenas at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in November 2003 in order to obtain the schools' cooperation in identifying two file-sharers who logged on to the peer-to-peer system as "CadillacMan" and "hulk."

Initially, the schools cooperated in the case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell A. Eliason wrote in an order filed earlier this month, but administrators pulled out after joining the attorneys of the students, who objected to the RIAA's request.

Fred Battaglia and Michael Kornbluth, the Durham, North Carolina, lawyers who represent the UNC-CH student targeted in the case, said they were not concerned with allegations of music piracy but with whether identifying their client would violate her privacy rights, according to the AP.

"This was a test case for North Carolina, and the way it stands as we speak is that the North Carolina schools cannot release the names of these individuals," Battaglia said.

Kornbluth added that the ruling only applied to P2P file sharing. "We would never condone music piracy," he said. "What we're interested in is the rights of the individual [and] privacy rights being protected."

Lisa Katz, a spokesperson for the University of North Carolina, said the school was pleased with the order but does not condone students' downloading copyrighted information.

Earlier this month, the RIAA filed 405 lawsuits against students at 18 different universities who allegedly used Internet2 — a private research network used by colleges across the country — to trade copyrighted songs and movies (see "RIAA Sues More Than 400 College Students Over Internet2 Downloads").

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.