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Are You Wanted by the Recording Industry?

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Concerned that information about your file-sharing user name may have been subpoenaed by the Recording Industry Association of America? Check this database to see if you're a potential target.

Ever since Napster made it easy for music lovers to share files, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been on a crusade to put an end to what they allege is illegal file sharing. The RIAA successfully sued Napster, resulting in the demise of the popular service.

The battle has escalated this year, with the RIAA shifting its targets from companies to individual users. On June 25, 2003, the RIAA announced that it will begin suing users of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing systems beginning at the end of August.

Targets of RIAA actions are users of services like Grokster, Morpheus, KaZaA, Aimster, Gnutella, and others. According to the RIAA, it plans to selectively target users who upload or share "substantial" amounts of copyrighted music.

How does the RIAA identify those users? By using software that scans users' publicly available P2P directories, and then identifies the ISP of each user. Then, under the provisions of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the RIAA subpoenas ISPs for each user's name, address, and other personal information. The RIAA will then sue those individuals.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is helping users deal with the draconian tactics of the music industry cartel. It has created a Subpoena Database that lets you check the user names and IP addresses used on a file sharing service against a database of those user names specified in hundreds of subpoenas the RIAA issued to Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

"The recording industry continues its futile crusade to sue thousands of the over 60 million people who use file sharing software in the U.S.," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "We hope that EFF's subpoena database will give people some peace of mind and the information they need to challenge these subpoenas and protect their privacy."

"EFF is also documenting the scope of privacy invasions committed by the RIAA," explained EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "EFF's subpoena database will help document the damage done to innocent people misidentified as copyright infringers in the RIAA's overzealous campaign."

If you're a user of a P2P system, it's important to realize that these systems are legal, and using them is not a crime, despite the RIAA's heavy-handed tactics. If you are a P2P user, take a look at How Not to Get Sued by the RIAA for File Sharing.

If you feel you've been wrongly targeted by the RIAA, visit the Subpoena Defense Alliance, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the US Internet Industry Association and other organizations that began in April of 2003. Its purpose is to assist consumers and Internet Service Providers who have been served subpoenas seeking the identity of customers who use the Internet for private communications.

What's Your IP Address?

An IP address is a unique identifier used by your computer to let it communicate with other computers on the Internet. It's similar to a telephone number.

Your browser announces your computer's IP address to every web site it visits, as does file sharing software. This is how the recording industry is developing its set of targets.

You can find out what your own computer's IP address is by visiting a browser header check utility. This shows all of the information your browser reveals to sites you visit.

Note: If you're on a network, behind a firewall, or use a large ISP, your IP address may be temporary, assigned only for your current online session.

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