Oregon says music industry spies on students

Oregon says music industry spies on students

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon attorney general has gone back to federal court to protect the privacy of University of Oregon students the state claims are the target of spying by the music industry in its national campaign against illegal downloading.

The industry has issued subpoenas to the university to identify 17 students it claims violated copyright laws.

But the Oregon attorney general's office calls the request "overbroad and burdensome" in court documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene to support a motion to quash the subpoenas.

"Sadly, the university's efforts thus far have been met by accusations that the university is obstructing the process and even conspiring with law breakers," Assistant Attorney General Katherine Von Ter Stegge said in the filing.

"Those accusations are not warranted," she said. "The record in this case suggests that the larger issue may not be whether students are sharing copyrighted music, but whether (the industry's) investigative and litigation strategies are appropriate."

The documents also refer to another Oregon case involving the music industry filed by a Beaverton woman who claims she was the victim of abusive legal tactics, threats and illegal spying in the crackdown.

A spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America called the university's efforts to block the subpoenas "misguided" and urged higher education officials to help prevent students from pirating music.

"It is our view that universities carry the great responsibility of educating students about many important issues, including technology, ethics, copyright law and civic responsibility," said Jonathan Lamy.

The RIAA Web site cites research suggesting that college students accounted for more than 1.3 billion illegal music downloads in 2006.

On behalf of the major record companies, the RIAA sent more than 400 letters to 16 universities nationwide earlier this month notifying them of potential lawsuits as part of its campaign against online music theft. More than 20,000 lawsuits have been filed against individuals suspected of pirating since the industry launched its crackdown in 2003, according to various estimates.

Last month, Lamy told an Ohio University forum the music business is "hemorrhaging" jobs and money and the lawsuits are a last resort.

A Minnesota woman has been the only person to go to trial against the crackdown, and a federal jury ordered her to pay the industry $222,000.

The University of Oregon case marks the first time a state attorney general has tried to block an RIAA subpoena seeking the identity of students suspected of illegal downloads.

Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd says the state is not trying to protect students who break the law. But he says the state must protect student privacy and the subpoenas go too far.

"We don't think the university can be compelled to produce investigative work for the recording industry," Shepherd said.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)