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RIAA Said to Drop Defunct D.C. Case Against Institute

By Keith J. Winstein


The Recording Industry Association of America will abandon a court proceeding it instituted to force MIT to identify a network user accused of copyright infringement, an MIT attorney said.

The case has become irrelevant now that the RIAA has agreed to reissue the request using the procedure MIT has demanded: signed by a clerk in the federal district court in Boston, not Washington, D.C., home to the RIAA.

An RIAA spokesman said the organization, a trade group of major record labels, would have no immediate comment.

On Aug. 1, the RIAA asked the federal district court in Washington, D.C., to enforce a subpoena the RIAA issued in early July, asking MIT to identify a network user alleged to have been “offering hundreds of copyrighted works to the world-at-large” through the KaZaA file-sharing system.

MIT balked at the subpoena, saying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act required it to be signed by the clerk of the federal district court in Boston, not Washington.

In response, the RIAA instituted the Washington case against MIT, asking the court to force MIT to comply. The RIAA has resisted filing subpoenas locally in part because of the expense of hiring lawyers accredited to the bar of each local jurisdiction.

But now, after the Boston federal court agreed with MIT on Aug. 7, the RIAA will drop its independent Washington case against MIT, said Jeffrey Swope, MIT’s longtime outside attorney.

The RIAA is expected to re-subpoena MIT through the Boston court, and MIT has said it will comply. Whether that compliance means MIT will send the RIAA the name of the infringing computer’s owner -- whom MIT says it has identified, notified, and wishes dearly to speak with -- is not yet clear.

On Friday, the RIAA requested subpoenas from the Boston federal court to be issued for Boston College, which Swope also represented in the successful effort to quash the Washington subpoenas, and Northeastern University.