High Court Rejects Recording Industry’s P2P Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court today chose not to hear an appeal from the recording and film industries regarding file sharing.

The Recording Industry Association of America had invoked copyright law in an attempt to force ISPs such as Verizon to hand over the names of customers who might be swapping protected songs.

Verizon argued that the RIAA must file a formal lawsuit to get customer names. A year ago a federal appeals court sided with Verizon, insisting that the RIAA must file anonymous “John Doe” lawsuits to get customer names.

Today’s high court move lets that ruling stand. The justices offered no comment on the case.

Filtering the Web?

The RIAA, joined by the Motion Picture Association of America, had contended that this was unlike previous cases,in which the courts have held that makers of devices and technologies suchas VCRs and P2P applications cannot be held liable for copyrightinfringement. Today’s P2P operators, the industry groups say, are capable of preventing copyrightviolations.

Wayne Rosso, former CEO of Optisoft, the maker of Blubster P2P software, said holding P2Poperators liable for copyright violations is ridiculous. He toldTechNewsWorld that this technology is no different from others that are usedto illegally copy or trade content, including the Internet.

“The Internet in and of itself is based on peer-to-peer technology, andcopyright infringement goes on all day on the Web,” Rosso said. “What shouldwe do — filter the Internet?”

File Traders Targeted

Since losing consecutive court rulings to P2P operators, the RIAA and MPAA have turned toward education and enforcement.For the RIAA, that copyright enforcement has meant finding alleged violatorsonline using tracking technologies.

Since initiating copyright infringement suits a year ago againstindividual file traders accused of uploading copyrighted songs to theInternet, the RIAA has filed more than 3,400 suits, RIAAspokesperson Jonathan Lamy told TechNewsWorld.

The RIAA has settled about 600 of those cases, pursuing civil penaltiesinto the thousands of dollars for others. Other content owner industry groups aroundthe world have also sued individuals, as many as 6,000 according to someestimates.

Not Concerned At All

Industry analysts indicate that the RIAA lawsuits have had an effect onfile traders. Some of the worst violators have cut down their trading, while manyothers have moved to e-mail, instant messaging or other methods of onlineexchange.

Rosso, who plans to start a new P2P company expected to launch soon, saidthe industry was not concerned over the Supreme Court appeal, which had yetto be acted on by the high court when he spoke.

“I haven’t got the slightest bit of concern,” Rosso said earlier today. “I could careless. I would refer to this appeal as a Hail Mary pass.”

For Good Use

Rosso also argued with the RIAA and MPAA contention that unlike VCR ortelevision makers, the P2P software makers and network operators should beheld accountable because they could use technology to discourageinfringement.

“That’s not the issue,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the issue.This is a technology that has substantial, non-infringing uses.”

As an example, Rosso said the U.S. government’s DARPA project wasactually an application of P2P technology. P2P lawyers have also pointed tolegitimate business use of P2P technologies, and the courts have found intheir favor.

John Doe Lives

Despite today’s adverse ruling, the RIAA indicated it wouldcontinue its efforts to scare individuals away from P2P use by continuingthe legal campaign.

“Today’s decision will not deter our ongoing anti-piracy efforts,” said astatement from RIAA senior vice president of legal affairs StanleyPierre-Louis. “The ‘John Doe’ litigation process we have successfullyutilized this year continues to be an effective legal tool.”

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