Court: Verizon Must ID File Trader in Two Weeks

By Richard Menta 4/25/03

Verizon has lost another round as U.S. District Court Judge John Bates again ruled that the company must reveal the identity of the anonymous file trader who the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) has accused of offering hundreds of files online.

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The judge ruled that Verizon needed to expose this individual back in January, but the company asked for a stay and that the subpoena be deemed invalid on constitutional grounds. The judge denied both motions. Said Bates "The subpoena laws that the RIAA is using do not violate constitutional separations of power, nor do the laws violate computer users' free speech rights". He then went on to say that the powers granted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) do not violate the first amendment rights of Net users.

Verizon's next step is to go to the Court of Appeals to asked for a stay on the ruling. The Court of Appeals has already agreed to hear the case and should make a decision before the 14 days elapse.

A few days ago the U.S. Department of Justice threw their support over to the RIAA in this case. In cases like this the department is asked to give their opinion and that opinion is weighted in the final decision

"A federal district court has again affirmed that the law which provides copyright holders with a process to identify infringers is both Constitutional and appropriate," said Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA. "If users of pirate peer-to-peer sites don't want to be identified, they should not break the law by illegally distributing music. Today's decision makes clear that these individuals cannot rely on their ISPs to shield them from accountability."

Mr. Sherman loves to throw around words like "break the law" and "illegally distributing music", yet to the best of my knowledge (and I may be wrong) no court has actually ruled that file trading is illegal. This is mostly because it never got that far. Napster and Madster (formerly Aimster) folded like a deck of cards before they could get through the pre-trial phase. As for the only two people to actually be arrested for file trading in this country, college students Jeffrey Gerard Levy and Scott Wickberg, neither could afford a lengthy trial and chose to avoid it by immediately pleading guilty for fines and no jail time. To win, both students probably would have had to appeal and appeal like Verizon is doing now. Not a pleasant situation to be in, especially since in the end they might actually lose (to date courts have sided with the record industry mostly). Fighting the charges could put them behind bars for years. If they win, they still have exhorbitant legal bills to pay.

Whoever this person the RIAA wants Verizon to identify may be weeks away from having to make the same decisions that Levy and Wicksberg made. Right now they don't even have no clue they are in the crosshairs.


Other MP3 stories:
PROOF That File Trading Sells DVDs...Sort Of
Arista looks to Copy-protect all CDs.

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