Verizon 1, Recording Biz 0

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/19/2003



A U.S. federal appeal’s court has ruled in favor of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) in its battle against the Record Industry of America Association (RIAA), striking down a ruling that forces service providers to reveal the identity of Internet users accused of music piracy (see Verizon Scores Against Record Industry, ...and SBC Cheers Them On).

The news is the second major blow for the record industry today, which just hours ago heard the Supreme Court in the Netherlands rule in favor of music swapping software maker KaZaa, which it says cannot be held liable for infringement of copyright by individual users of its software (see Court Lets KaZaa off the Hook).

"The District Court of Columbia has knocked down a dangerous procedure that threatens Americans' traditional legal guarantees and violates their constitutional rights,” said Sarah Deutsch, VP and associate general counsel for Verizon, in a prepared statement.

The court ruled that copyright holders seeking personal information about Internet users will now have to file a traditional lawsuit. These requests will undergo scrutiny by a judge.

This case stems from a new type of subpoena filed last year by the RIAA. This subpoena, issued by the clerk of a court, rather than a judge or magistrate, demanded that Verizon turn over the name of a customer whom the RIAA accused of possessing illegal copies of copyrighted music files on the customer's personal computer.

Verizon refused, noting that the subpoena did not comply with the requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which applies only to files hosted on an Internet provider's network and not to private communications on a subscriber's home computer (see P2P Plagues Service Providers).

The RIAA sued Verizon to enforce the subpoena. On Jan. 21, a lower court ruled in favor of the RIAA. Verizon sought and was granted an expedited appeal at the Court of Appeals, which was heard on Sept. 16. Since July, the RIAA has filed thousands of subpoenas.

A spokesperson for the RIAA said it will continue to fight copyright infringement. Its Website proudly states that since the beginning of September it has sent 308 lawsuit notification letters and filed 341 lawsuits and is filing 41 new suits and sending 90 lawsuit notification letters this month.

Merry Christmas to you, too!

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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