A federal judge in New Mexico is preventing the usual RIAA strategy of John Doe lawsuits against students at the University of New Mexico, according to ars technica. While the RIAA may still file lawsuits against unknown students (so-called John Doe lawsuits) to begin the process of discovering their identities, students in this particular case must now be notified very early in the process so that they can defend their legal rights on an ongoing basis instead of simply being presented with a settlement at the end of the process.
While the judge acknowledged that copyright infringement caused financial damages to the RIAA and the companies/artists they represent, he also noted that disclosure of Internet usage patterns without a student's knowledge and legal involvement could be quite harmful as well.
Accordingly, the judge has ordered the record labels and the University of New Mexico to work out an "appropriate process" to ensure that individual Does will be informed that a subpoena has been issued. More importantly, those targeted will be able to respond to such requests to protect their own interests.
The most important aspect of this case is the precedent it may set, ending the "open and shut" nature of many of the RIAA's lawsuits and protecting student and university rights. While it hardly guarantees a right to pirate music, the ruling at least grants students the right to defend their actions.