ACLU elevates copy protection to constitutional challenge in court

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has entered the legal battle over Internet file sharing, filing a motion to stop attempts by the music industry to get the name of a Boston College student who is accused of being a large-scale file trader.

The civil liberties group argues that the constitutional rights of its client, referred to as Jane Doe, would be violated if her college, which is also her Internet service provider, were forced to reveal her name. The industry subpoena “seeks to strip Jane Doe of her fundamental right to anonymity,” according to the group’s court filings.

The industry subpoena is one of many recently filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that gives copyright holders broad powers to get the names of suspected infringers from Internet service providers. It is mainly being used now by the record industry in its battle against music piracy, but is likely to be adapted by video content owners if ultimately successful.

The ACLU’s suit claims that the subpoenas, which can be issued with little judicial oversight or involvement, go beyond even what the law allows. The group also claims that the law itself is unconstitutional, because it does not provide for the judicial review of requests or notification of the target of the investigation.

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