- Verizon Communications Inc. asked a federal judge Thursday to stay his ruling making it much simpler for the entertainment industry to tie a digital pirate’s online activities to his real-world identity.
Verizon lawyers want U.S. District Judge John D. Bates to wait until a federal appeals court reviews the case before they are forced to disclose the identity of an Internet subscriber suspected of illegally offering more than 600 songs from top artists.
The company previously indicated it will appeal the Jan. 21 ruling, which raised the risks of getting caught for computer users who illegally trade music or movies online.
….Verizon’s lawyer, John Thorne, promised Thursday the company will “use every legal mechanism available to protect the privacy of our subscribers.”
“If this ruling stands, consumers will be caught in a digital dragnet not only from record companies alleging infringement of their copyright monopolies but from anyone who can fill out a simple form,” Thorne said. [AP]
The more time people have to think about this, the more absurd it becomes: how can you grant corporations or other “copyright holders” unlimited subpoena powers without judicial supervision? Since when did the US become an official plutocracy?
Peter Swire, the Clinton administration’s top privacy official and now a professor at Ohio State University, made this statement yesterday:
Court Decision Must be Stayed: Would Unleash Widespread Surveillance Into Private Communications
Peter P. Swire, Professor at the Ohio State University, and former Chief Counselor for Privacy in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, submitted a declaration today in the case of Recording Industry Association of America (“RIAA”) v. Verizon, pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The case began when the RIAA issued a subpoena to Verizon, demanding to know the identity of one of Verizon’s Internet customers. The RIAA suspected that Verizon’s customer was offering music files on his or her computer for distribution to other “peer-to-peer” music swapping on the Internet. The RIAA brought this case under the previously untested subpoena provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).
Mr. Swire supports Verizon’s request for a stay of the court’s previous order, which ordered disclosure of the identity of Verizon’s customer, and urges the court to reconsider its decision.
Professor Swire comments:
· “The subpoenas will become a new form of spam. Fraudulent subpoenas will be easy to file, with no judicial oversight. Any of us who visits a website, but don’t want to reveal our names, will now be at serious risk of being tracked back to our homes.”
· “I have reviewed all the U.S. privacy laws. I helped write some of them. But I have never seen any provision like this. There is no due process under this provision before a person’s identity is revealed. There is no judicial supervision.”
· “This provision, as interpreted by the Court, would have a serious chilling effect on free speech on the Internet. When every web site can learn your name, will you feel free to surf the Net? What will you write if you know that your e-mail handle can easily be turned into your real name and address?”