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RIAA to Charter: Give up file-swapper names

The Recording Industry Association of America presses a federal court to ignore Charter Communications' attempt to keep private the names of 93 subscribers who allegedly traded songs online illegally.

The Recording Industry Association of America is pressing a federal court to ignore cable Internet provider Charter Communications' attempt to keep private the names of 93 subscribers who allegedly traded songs online illegally.

On Friday, the trade organization filed a court memorandum opposing Charter's "motion to quash" a subpoena request for the names. The RIAA charges that Charter is unlawfully withholding the identities of its high-speed Internet subscribers who, it says, disseminated more than 100,000 copyrighted songs in peer-to-peer communities like Kazaa without the permission of rights holders.

Among other arguments, the RIAA is denying claims by Charter that it has not filed proper documentation to receive the detailed information on alleged infringers, including their names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

"Charter...has the IP addresses of the 93 infringers, a subpoena validly issued...a declaration complying with all of the (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) requirements, and notices listing copyrighted works illegally disseminated by each infringer," the filing says. "Charter claims instead that the DMCA requires RIAA to fill out 93 different subpoena forms that will differ only as to the IP address (for each infringer)...Charter's goal is transparent--to increase the paperwork burden on copyright holders."

The memorandum, submitted to the U.S. Eastern District Court in St. Louis, was filed a week after Charter motioned to quash a subpoena for the names. In doing so, Charter became the first cable company to fight the RIAA in its campaign to target peer-to-peer song swappers with lawsuits. Telecommunications companies, such as Verizon Communications, have taken similar measures against the RIAA without success.

A representative from Charter said that the company had not received the filing as of early Tuesday so it could not comment on it. But the company reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the identities of subscribers in accordance with its privacy policy.

"It's all about protecting the interests of our customers and our business," said Anita Lamont, Charter spokeswoman. "Our intent has never been not to comply with the law. We think we owe it to our customers to take it as far as can be."

In one slight discrepancy with the RIAA, Charter said the recording association has requested the names of 150 subscribers, not 93. Lamont said that the company has notified these 150 that the RIAA is seeking their names.

This summer, the RIAA filed 261 lawsuits against individuals that it claimed had violated copyrights belonging to its member companies. Those individuals' identities were obtained through subpoenas sent to Internet service providers and cable Internet suppliers.