Verizon asks federal judge to “keep the cat in the bag”:
- Verizon Communications struggled Thursday to convince a skeptical judge that it should not be forced to reveal the name of a customer alleged to have downloaded more than 600 songs over the Internet.
U.S. District Judge John Bates ordered Verizon last month to give the name of the alleged song-swapper to recording companies who are trying to crack down on the practice, which they believe cuts into compact-disc sales.
Verizon asked Bates to suspend the order while it appeals his decision to a higher court, arguing that the appeal would be pointless if the record companies already knew the alleged infringer’s identity.
“Once the cat’s out of the bag, it can’t be put back,” said attorney Andrew McBride, who argued the case for Verizon.
An attorney for a recording-industry trade group said Verizon’s argument was weakened by its previous suggestion that record companies use an alternate legal method to get the user’s identity.
“This is not a case of whether the cat is going to get out of the bag, this is a case of how the cat is going to get out of the bag,” Don Verilli, representing the Recording Industry Association of America, told the judge.
Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Internet providers have voluntarily shut down Web sites that contain infringing material, but Verizon has balked at requests to disconnect users who trade songs with each other directly over peer-to-peer networks like Kazaa and the now-defunct Napster.
Such a move would violate users’ privacy and free-speech rights, Verizon said, because it would require Internet providers to police their users’ Internet activity, rather than simply the material they post on Verizon server computers.
The move could have severe consequences for Internet providers worldwide if record companies — or anybody claiming copyright violations — could easily obtain the name and address of any Internet user, McBride argued. [Reuters]