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Service providers resist tracking pirates

Internet service providers have neither an obligation nor, in some cases, the technical means to help the recording industry identify 29 alleged music pirates, a federal judge heard yesterday.

The Canadian Recording Industry Association has asked for a federal court order that would force the country’s five largest high-speed service providers to disclose the names, addresses and other personal information relating to unauthorized “uploaders” of copyrighted music.

Lawyers for the group argued yesterday that the ISPs “hold the key” to identifying the 29 accused file-swappers and have a duty to co-operate that overrides any privacy concerns related to policy, legislation or Charter rights.

“The only reasonable, practical source (of this information) is through the ISPs,” said Ronald Dimock, lawyer for CRIA. He said without the identities of the alleged pirates, the music industry will be “stopped in its tracks” and unable to protect its copyrights through trial.

“That’s the consequence of denying this motion,” Dimock said in his opening remarks to Mr. Justice Conrad von Finckenstein.

Some of the ISPs shot back. Shaw Cable, the most defiant company among the pack, poked holes in CRIA’s case and accused the music industry of planning an extended fishing expedition for the purpose of forcing individuals into costly settlements before cases ever get to trial.

This is the same strategy used by sister organization the Recording Industry Association of America, lawyers argued.

Shaw lawyer Charles Scott, of Lax O’Sullivan Scott, said the cable company has a duty to protect the privacy of its customers, not to become a “private investigator” for the music industry by being forced, at its own expense, to analyze and hand over subscriber information.

CRIA, with the help of New York-based technology firm MediaSentry, has tracked the computer IP addresses of 29 individuals accused of swapping thousands of copyrighted songs through file-trading networks Kazaa and iMesh.

It now needs the ISPs to match those addresses to the high-speed Internet subscribers. Montreal-based Groupe Vidéotron Ltée. is the only service provider to say it will fully co-operate.

Scott said Shaw, because of the design of its network and its policy for storing customer data, does not have a way of “reliably” complying with such a court order. Telus and Rogers claimed similar difficulties.

But even if Shaw could technically comply, Scott said CRIA has not presented enough evidence to prove copyright infringement and to justify getting a court order. “This is not a strong case.”

The judge is expected to decide on the order this month, possibly as early as Monday.

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