Close ISP Access Requested to be Shut Down by Recording Companies

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Thirteen recording companies have filed an action in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, seeking to enjoin four Internet service providers from providing access to, a China-based web site. The record labels, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and RCA Records, claim that, a free web site written in English, contains thousands of copyrighted songs aimed at an American listening audience and uses a Napster-like music-sharing format. The difference between the Napster case and this one, however, is that in the Napster case the Napster service itself was sued and enjoined, whereas this case has been brought against four ISPs that have no connection with the web site other than to provide their subscribers Internet backbone. The four named ISPs in the action are AT&T Broadband, Cable and Wireless, Sprint Corporation and UUNet Technologies.

The suit seeks remedial action under an untested provision of the 1998 federal law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives courts the authority to order ISPs to take certain steps to block access to offshore web sites that violate U.S. copyright laws. The ISPs have expressed doubt over how effective it will be to block a specific foreign web site, since web sites can easily change IP addresses to elude shutdown. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group that tracks digital copyright issues, is watching this action carefully. The EFF asserts that the suit requiring action by the ISPs is not the proper remedy when there is a less burdensome approach available, and claims that the proper remedy is to proceed in a court in China against the specific copyright violators.