Lawmaker seeks info on RIAA dragnet

The recording industry's wave of subpoenas that target individual computer users has drawn the critical attention of at least one influential lawmaker on Capitol Hill. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, sent a letter to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on Thursday that criticized its recent spate of subpoenas and asked for detailed information on how the process is working. Coleman said the RIAA may be going too far. "The industry has legitimate concerns about copyright infringement," Coleman said in a statement. "Yet, the industry seems to have adopted a 'shotgun' approach that could potentially cause injury and harm to innocent people who may have simply been victims of circumstance, or possessing a lack of knowledge of the rules related to digital sharing of files."

The RIAA is in the midst of an unprecedented legal campaign ultimately aimed at filing what could be thousands of copyright-infringement lawsuits against individual file-swappers who are accused of offering copyrighted songs over networks such as Kazaa. The group is sending out close to 300 subpoenas a week to Internet service providers and colleges in pursuit of the identities of file-swappers, according to the federal court in Washington, D.C., that is serving as a clearinghouse for the requests. Several universities, along with telecommunications giant SBC Communications, are contesting the subpoenas, largely on procedural grounds. However, the RIAA is expected to file lawsuits against individuals as planned beginning as early as mid-August.

In his letter, Coleman asked for several key pieces of information, including copies of all subpoenas issued, descriptions of the process that's used to obtain the subpoenas and the information used to justify them, and descriptions of any ways the RIAA was protecting the privacy of the individuals involved.

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