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MIT complies with RIAA subpoena

In response to a subpoena issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), MIT recently provided information that identified a student to the RIAA, after first giving the student notice that it would do so.

The RIAA had issued the subpoena to MIT in late August under the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act, alleging that a computer on the MIT network had illegally distributed copyrighted music. The RIAA subpoena sought information about the identity of the alleged infringer listed by an IP address in the subpoena. MIT's response to the RIAA made clear that the information only showed the registration of the IP address, and that MIT had made no determination whether the registered user had infringed any copyrighted work.

MIT had filed a motion to quash an earlier RIAA subpoena for the same information. That subpoena had been issued in July from a federal court in Washington, D.C., and gave MIT only two days in which to produce the information. MIT argued in its motion that the subpoena should have been issued from the Massachusetts federal court and that MIT should have been given sufficient time to send written prior notice to the student whose information would be disclosed, as required by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

MIT explained in the court papers filed with its motion that MIT was not taking sides in the debate over the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or the RIAA's use of that law to obtain information about alleged copyright infringers. But MIT said that it could release information only in response to a properly-issued subpoena that allowed time to provide reasonable prior written notice to any student involved, as required by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

On August 7, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts allowed MIT's motion to quash the July subpoena. On August 26, the RIAA served MIT with a new subpoena issued from the federal court in Massachusetts, and as a result of that properly-issued subpoena, MIT gave the individual involved written prior notice that it would provide the information requested.

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