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The Recording Industry Association of America has hit a roadblock in its efforts to prosecute four students at Boston University for copyright infringement.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner forbade Boston University - which had been subpoenaed by the RIAA - from providing the names of students to the organization until she further investigates the school's privacy policy.

The ruling is being called a "David and Goliath" victory for students being targeted by the RIAA.

Since early 2007, the RIAA has been targeting college students for copyright infringement.

The organization asks colleges to forward letters to students whose IP addresses match addresses where illegal downloading has occurred. If students don't settle, the RIAA generally subpoenas the college to release the names of the students.

According to attorney Ray Beckerman, creator of the blog "Recording Industry vs. The People," Gertner's decision sheds light on what he calls the RIAA's questionable legal tactics.

"The RIAA goes and gets a judge to secretly sign an order allowing them to serve a subpoena and the university complies," Beckerman said.

In the past, Penn, like most universities, has readily given up student information upon a request from the court.

According to Penn's confidentiality policy, consent is not required to disclose "personally identifiable information" in order "to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena."

University information-security officer Dave Millar did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

The University of Oregon remains the only school that has challenged the legality of a subpoena by the RIAA, according to Beckerman. The university, with the support of the Oregon Attorney General, resisted the RIAA's attempt to get student information last fall.

Since the RIAA began targeting college students in February 2007, 64 Penn students have received pre-litigation letters and 26 have reached settlements with the RIAA.

The last wave of letters against Penn students came last November.

Although BU has stated that it will comply with any court requests and the RIAA has said it views Gertner's decision as a small setback, it is part of a series of criticisms of the RIAA's legal practices.

Proceedings at Harvard and George Washington universities and the University of Oregon have all called into question the means by which the RIAA obtains the identities of file-sharers.

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