In an important DMCA case, Verizon must turn over the identity of a customer the RIAA accusses of extensively using the Kazaa file trading service:
- The RIAA could only identify the user by a numeric Internet address on Verizon’s network, and served Verizon with a subpoena demanding the user’s identity under provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Verizon refused, arguing that Internet service providers are only required to provide such information if the offending material is stored on its network, not if it is merely the vehicle for transmission.
But District Court Judge John D. Bates in Washington ruled that the 1998 copyright act specifies an ability of copyright holders to demand the identities of those suspected infringing on copyrights.
“Verizon’s assertions to the contrary are refuted by the structure and language of the DMCA,” Bates wrote.
Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, hailed the decision and said that “we look forward to contacting the account holder whose identity we were seeking so we can let them know that what they are doing is illegal.”
Sarah Deutsch, Verizon’s associate general counsel, said the company would appeal.
“We’re still studying the decision,” she said, “but we think the court was wrong.” She said if the decision were to stand, it would have a chilling effect on consumers and Internet service providers.
This will not promote broadband nor inspire trust in any direction. At this stage of the game, I hope the RIAA goes after the dreaded Kazaa-user with both barrels as the public outcry may ram home to Congress the folly of the DMCA.
Special thanks to reader Judy Underwood for the heads up!
The court’s opinion is here.:
- The case thus presents a core issue of statutory interpretation relating to the scope of the subpoena authority under the DMCA. The parties, and several amici curiae, agree that this is an issue of first impression of great importance to the application of copyright law to the Internet. Indeed, they concede that this case is presented as a test case on the DMCA subpoena power.Based on the language and structure of the statute, as confirmed by the purpose and history of the legislation, the Court concludes that the subpoena power in 17 U.S.C. § 512(h) applies to all Internet service providers within the scope of the DMCA, not just to those service providers storing information on a system or network at the direction of a user. Therefore, the Court grants RIAA’s motion to enforce, and orders Verizon to comply with the properly issued and supported subpoena from RIAA seeking the identity of the alleged infringer.