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I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

University of New Mexico thumps RIAA mass suppoena

The RIAA dropped one of their John Doe subpoenas on the University of New Mexico demanding the identities of 16 students in Capitol v. Does 1-16. Unlike several other large universities The University of New Mexico did not roll over and cough up the student's personal information. Instead the sent the matter to their own legal department.

Their attorney went to United States District Court and pointed out the numerous legal flaws in the RIAA's paper work. Check this out:

As the Plaintiffs do not presently know the identity of the Defendants, there is no reasonable way to ensure that those prospective Defendants are given notice or even an opportunity to respond in opposition to the request for disclosure. Rather, Plaintiffs seek to obtain information directly from the University of New Mexico. Plaintiffs propose that the University will be able to notify subscribers that a subpoena was served. However, the Court needs to ensure that subscribers actually receive notification and are given a reasonable opportunity to intervene in order to stop the disclosure of sensitive information.

In any event, the Court[...] sees no need to act on an ex parte application. Rather, it would appear appropriate that Plaintiffs and the University of New Mexico confer on an appropriate process to ensure that, if a subpoena is served, the University not turn over information until it has given notice to individual subscribers that a subpoena has been issued and allow those subscribers to intervene in this proceeding to protect disclosure of sensitive information. Moreover, ex parte proceedings should be the exception, not the rule. Accordingly, the Court declines to grant Plaintiffs’ request for ex parte application.

Further, the federal rules prohibit discovery until the parties have met and conferred, formulated an appropriate discovery plan, and made arrangements for disclosure of information. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26. Here, of course, the individual subscribers are unknown, have not been sued and cannot “meet and confer” with Plaintiffs. However, the University of New Mexico, the entity from which discovery is sought, has a right to be heard on this matter.

- From RIAA battling lawyer Ray Beckman's blog, Recording Industry vs. People

The students that were stealing the music are not our of the woods yet. The judge's ruling goes on to order the university and RIAA legal counsel to meet and "attempt to agree on a fair and reasonable process that would allow Plaintiffs to identify limited information about the subscribers."

But the good news is that the RIAA's wholesale fishing expeditions have just been ruled out. This ruling could effect the entire RIAA game plan of lumping many defendants in to one action.

A tip of the hat to the legal staff at the University of New Mexico.

- 30 -

The court is like a palace of marble; it's composed of people very hard and very polished.
- Jean de la Bruyere

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