RIAA's reign of terror spreads

It's not aimed at stopping you from traveling, or keeping you from getting an abortion, but the legal tactics being employed by the RIAA (as described in an article from the Associated Press) certainly seem to qualify as using fear to coerce behavioral change, thanks to our duly elected representatives.

The article describes a number of parents, grandparents and roommates over whose internet connections songs were served (mostly without their knowledge) who now find themselves the object of subpoenas from the RIAA.

Herein lies some of the problem with the way that the subpoena process works. The RIAA decides that they want to get some easy cash (easier than encouraging and marketing new music or providing reasonable prices for downloadable music with reasonable rights), so they attach to one of the file services and look for somebody with a lot of songs to serve. Now, I'm not going to argue that these people are right, because they aren't, but to me that is a separate issue from what the RIAA is doing to "remedy" it.

Once the RIAA has found a server with a lot of tunes, they grab the IP address and whatever other distinguishing characteristics (user name if available) and file for a federal subpoena in the DC District. This is very convenient for them, as they don't need to do all of that messy research to figure out whose jurisdiction somebody is in to get a subpoena granted. If you've ever tried to collect on a debt from a private party before, you will be familiar with the problem of filing the paperwork in the right jurisdiction, but that's not a problem for the RIAA.

Now that they've got a subpoena, their ISP will hand over the personal information about the person who is currently being billed for their internet access for that account/IP address. This is something to keep in mind if you provide access to your neighbor through wireless networking or some such. When the subpoena comes because your neighbors 14-year-old is swapping songs online, it will have your name on it. There may be some question as to whether you are protected under the immunity provisions of the Communications Decency Act that are intended to protect ISPs from what their customers do with the internet access. I couldn't find any case law about how you qualify to be an ISP, so you might be OK.

Otherwise, look out.