The case involving a California Internet service provider (ISP) seeking to shield the identity of its customers from recording industry subpoenas may be headed to the same Washington, D.C., court that ruled against Verizon Internet Services Inc. in a similar case last January.
The case, being heard in a San Francisco federal court, pits Pacific Bell Internet, a subsidiary of SBC Communications, against the Recording Industry Association of America. Pacific Bell is asking the court to block more than 200 subpoenas issued by the RIAA, which ask the ISP to reveal the identities of alleged file-swappers using its service.
While hearing arguments from Pacific Bell on its motion for a summary judgement, and from the RIAA on its motion to dismiss the case, Judge Susan Illston indicated that she may move the case to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said Wendy Seltzer, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"It sounded as though that was where she was planning to go," Seltzer said after the hearing.
A move to Washington would be a blow to Pacific Bell's case as the Washington court's Judge John D. Bates has already ruled in favor of the RIAA in a similar case.
SBC feels the case should remain in California, said SBC spokesman Larry Meyer. "It involves a California corporation ... and directly affects California consumers. Plus we've always seen significant differences between our case and the Verizon case."
The Verizon case dealt with only two subpoenas, as opposed to the hundreds involved in the Pacific Bell case, and did not cover certain procedural questions brought up by Pacific Bell, Meyer said. Another difference is that Pacific Bell's case involves two companies outside of the recording industry, Titan Media and MediaSentry, he said.
Pacific Bell's arguments have already been raised and rejected three times by federal courts and the company eventually will have to identify the customers in question, said Cary Sherman, the president of the RIAA, in a statement.
All parties are now waiting to see whether Judge Illston will dismiss or proceed with the case, or whether she will transfer it to the D.C. court. A decision could come at any time.