A federal judge has ruled in favor of two North Carolina university students in a music piracy case after a music industry trade group tried to force their schools to turn over the students’ identities.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Russell A. Eliason found that North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) were not required to provide the personal information of two students to the Recording Industry Association of America.

The association filed subpoenas in November 2003 indicating that an NCSU computer user who used the name “CadillacMan” and a UNC-CH student named “hulk” offered copyrighted songs for download through the universities’ computer systems.

The music industry group, unable to determine the users’ identities, requested help through the university by filing subpoenas, according to Eliason’s order, which was filed April 14. Both universities at first were willing to cooperate but then joined attorneys for the students in protesting the request, Eliason wrote in his order.

Durham lawyers Fred Battaglia and Michael Kornbluth represented Jane Doe, the UNC-CH student. They said they were not concerned with allegations of music piracy but with whether their client, whom they declined to name, could have his or her privacy protected.

“This was a test case for North Carolina, and the way it stands as we speak is that the North Carolina schools cannot release the name of these individuals,” Battaglia said.

The ruling applies only to peer-to-peer file-swapping, Kornbluth said.

“We would never condone music piracy,” he said. “What we’re interested in is the rights of the individual–privacy rights–being protected.”

Administrators at UNC-CH were pleased with the order but do not condone the downloading of copyrighted information by students, said Lisa Katz, a university spokeswoman.

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