ISP Ordered To Reveal File-Swapper’s Identity

In a ruling hailed by some as a major victory in the recording industry’s epic battle against online piracy — but decried by others as a threat to Web privacy — a judge has ordered an Internet service provider to turn over the identity of a voracious file-swapper to an industry group.

U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates ruled that Verizon Internet Services must disclose the name of the individual, who used the Kazaa file-swapping service to download as many as 600 songs.

The Recording Industry Association of America had asked the judge to force Verizon to honor a subpoena it served on the ISP seeking the swapper’s identity.

Friendly Reminder

The RIAA has not said whether it will pursue criminal charges or civil action against the individual once it obtains his or her identity.

“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,” RIAA president Cary Sherman said.

Big Chill

But the group may not have to pursue a case in order to have the desired effect, according to some legal experts, who predict that the ruling, even if it is overturned on appeal, may have a chilling effect on file-swapping.

“I think file-swappers operated under two assumptions, one being that they couldn’t be identified, the other that no one would ever pursue them for what they were doing,” University of Pennsylvania marketing professor Peter S. Fader told the E-Commerce Times. “At least one of those illusions has been wiped out, and potentially both of them.”

Whereas many casual file-swappers had ceased the practice after the demise of Napster, Kazaa and other alternatives have been gaining more attentionlately, and another wave of public adoption seemed possible before the ruling, Fader said.

Vowing To Fight

Verizon spokesperson Susan Cavender Butta told the E-Commerce Times that Verizon plans to appeal the decision, citing the need to protect consumer privacy and a potential “chilling effect” on other Internet uses, including exchanges of private e-mail.

In his ruling against Verizon, the judge set aside the ISP’s interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which the RIAA had sought to use to gain access to the user’s identity.

DMCA Battle Lines

The DMCA, long a point of contention for online privacy experts and copyright holders such as music and movie studios, has been the subject of several major court rulings in recent months.

In November, the first-ever criminal prosecution under the law ended with the acquittal of a Russian software firm accused of publishing code to enable free downloads of Adobe eBooks. The movie industry also lost a battle when a court ruled it could not sue residents of other states in a case involving a Texas man who reportedly posted code for unlocking anti-copying software on DVDs.

4 Comments

  • This is a matter for a long discussion, I also believe if they keep up like this, the privacy which once was a contribution for the big internet boom, the number of internet users will start falling, because they start now with the file-swappers and who knows where they will stop?

  • It is understandable to say the least that the movie and music companies are capitalizing large off of the internet. I’m sure the penalties gained by the lawsuits that have been waged by the likes of Dr. Dre, Metallica and Limp Bizkit to list a few would be enough to finance a small country for 10 years. Is this not enough to appease them? I myself have witnessed a fortune 500 company using about 50 pirated copies of Office, and who knows what else is there? Songs should be 25 cents to download that wouldd be appropriate, and I’m sure about 80% of those who download music would much rather pay a commission than not be able to do it at all. With the corporate monopoly that has enveloped the US of A we are going to be bound by what they want us to do, not what the software can do!!!!

  • Wow — 1 down, 29,999,999 Americans left to go. Artists can sleep easier at night, knowing the RIAA is spending their money wisely, going after invididuals one at a time. At this rate, it’ll be the year 3450 by the time the RIAA will have all of us nailed… long live P2P!

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