Latest News and Events
- Appeals Court Rejects RIAA Subpoenas. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has ruled against the recording industry's attempts to compel Internet service providers to identify their subscribers. The panel opinion (pdf) is a major setback for the industry's anti-piracy campaign and a significant victory for Internet users' privacy rights. EPIC and other public interest groups filed an amicus brief (pdf) supporting Verizon's challenge to the RIAA subpoenas. (Dec. 19, 2003)
- RIAA Targeting Grandparents and Parents in their Lawsuits Against File Sharers. The RIAA has begun filing lawsuits against individual file sharers: News reports state that U.S. courts are approving approximately 75 subpoenas a day for subscriber information from internet service providers. Many recipients of the lawsuits are parents and grandparents caught unaware of their children's file sharing activities. The RIAA has said that it will pursue file sharers "regardless of personal circumstances" because of the deterrence factor. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a Subpoena Database so that file sharers can check if their user name or IP address has been subpoenaed by the RIAA. (July 24, 2003)
- RIAA Preparing Lawsuits against Peer-to-Peer File Sharers. In a statement issued on June 25, the Recording Industry Association of America announced its intention to start gathering evidence against individual peer-to-peer users who are illegally sharing "substantial" amounts of copyrighted music. The first lawsuits based on the gathered evidence could take place as early as August 2003. The RIAA will be using scanning software such as Ranger to find the illegally shared files on P2P networks. (June 25)
- Commerce Committee to Consider DMCA Subpoena Power. Sen. John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, plans to hold a hearing sometime soon on the consequences of the DMCA subpoena power. The agreement was made during a Committee mark-up session on FTC re-authorization, when Sen. Sam Brownback proposed an amendment that would require copyright holders to file a court action before they would be able to obtain identifying subscriber information from ISPs. Brownbeck emphasized the "clear threat of unintended consequences" of the current subpoena process. He withdrew his amendment once McCain committed to a hearing on the subject. (June 20)
In the summer of 2002, the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) asked Verizon Online to reveal the identities of four subscribers who were accused of harboring copyrighted music material on their personal computers. Verizon refused and the RIAA sent the ISP a subpoena pursuant to 17 U.S.C. ß 512 (h) of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), which allows a copyright owner or a person on the owner's behalf to ask a district court clerk "to issue a subpoena to a service provider for identification of an alleged [copyright] infringer." Verizon did not comply with the request because the alleged copyright materials were not on Verizon's computer servers, but rather on the user's personal computers, which the company argued was an invalid use of the subpoena. The RIAA sued Verizon on July 24, 2002, over its refusal to comply with the subpoena, and on January 21, 2003, the district court ruled for RIAA, finding that the process used by the RIAA was correct. Verizon appealed the decision, arguing that allowing an ISP to reveal the identity of a subscriber upon a mere allegation of copyright infringement violates the subscriber's privacy rights and is likely unconstitutional because of the lack of due process.
On June 4, 2003, the appeals court denied Verizon's request for a stay of the lower court's order. According to the court, Verizon "has not shown so great a likelihood of success on the merits as to outweigh the clearly greater harm that would accrue to the [RIAA] if the stay were granted." Verizon turned over the names of the four subscribers to the RIAA on June 5, 2003, but will continue arguing the merits of the case in the pending appeal. Oral argument in the case is scheduled for September 2003.
Issues arising out of RIAA v. Verizon
This is the first case to interpret the privacy issues surrounding the DMCA. The legal issue is whether ß 512 (h) of DMCA allows a copyright owner to subpoena the identity of a subscriber where the alleged infringing material is present on the ISPs server. There are also questions as to whether the legislation itself may be unconstitutional, because the ease of obtaining the identity of a subscriber could lead to misuse of the information; for instance being used by the copyright industry for non-infringement related purposes or by criminals for identity theft. There is no due process built into the DMCA to make sure that a copyright holder is legitimately obtaining the identities, nor are there any provisions to regulate the copyright holder's use of the obtained information. Verizon also argues that the recording industry is using ß 512 (h) to combat peer-to-peer file sharing, an inappropriate use of the law, since that is not what it was intended for. The fear is that as copy right holders chase after hundreds or even thousands of peer-to-peer users using automated copyright infringement monitors, such as Ranger Inc., it will result in huge costs for the ISPs faced with processing the requests.
Verizon is pushing for legislative changes to the DMCA to clarify ß 512 (h) and provide a more stringent process for obtaining the identity of subscribers. Additionally, Verizon is calling for a protective provision that would limit the copyright holders' use of the information.
EPIC has participated in the case as amicus curiae, arguing in support of ISP subscriber rights.
- Amicus Brief of MPAA et al. in support of RIAA. [pdf] June 20, 2003.
- Appeals Court Order Denying Motion to Stay. [pdf] June 4, 2003.
- Amicus Brief of ISP and Public Interest Groups including EPIC. [pdf] May 16, 2003.
- Verizon Brief (Appellant). [pdf] May 12, 2003.
- Brief for intervenor Department of Justice in response to Defendant's motion to Quash February 4 subpoena and addressing questions of the court. [pdf] April 18, 2003.
- Court Ruling on Amicus Motions. [pdf] April 16, 2003.
- U.S. District Court Opinion denying Verizon's Motion to Stay, Motion to Quash. [pdf] April 24, 2003.
- RIAA Brief in Opposition to Verizon's Motion to Quash February 4th Subpoena . [pdf] March 27, 2003.
- Order denying Emergency Motion of Stay. [pdf] June 4, 2003.
- Reply in Support of Verizon's Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal. [pdf] February 11, 2003.
- RIAA's Opposition to Motion for Stay Pending Appeal. [pdf] February 7, 2003.
- District Court Order to enforce Subpoena [pdf] January 21, 2003.
- Brief of Amici Curiae in Support of Verizon's Opposition To Motion TO Enforce Subpoena [pdf] September 9, 2002.
- Reply Brief in Support of Motion to Enforce [pdf] September 4, 2002.
- Opposition Of Verizon Internet Services To Motion To Enforce Ex Parte Subpoena . [pdf] August 30. 2003.
- Brief Of Amici In Support Of Verizonís Opposition To RIAAís Motion To Enforce. [pdf] August 30, 2003.
Original RIAA Complaint
- Motion To Enforce July 24, 2002 Subpoena Issued By District Court to Verizon and Memorandum In Support Thereof. [pdf]
- Music-Sharing Subpoenas Targets Parents. Washington Post. July 24, 2003.
- McCain Promises Review of DMCA Subpoena Power. Internet.com. June 20, 2003.
- Cease and Desist. Washington Post. June 19, 2003.
- Senate to Examine Online Copyright Dispute. Washington Post. June 19, 2003.
- Illusion of Internet anonymity crumbling under rulings, new laws. Austin-American Statesman. June 16, 2003.
- Privacy vs. Internet piracy. USA Today. June 11, 2003.
- Verizon Divulges Customer Names. PCWorld.com. June 5, 2003.
- Verizon to hand names over to RIAA. News.com. June 4, 2003.
- Verizon must turn over names of file-swapping suspects. San Jose Mercury News. June 4, 2003.
- Verizon gets respite in RIAA fight. News.com. May 9, 2003.
- Verizon gets 14 days to ID file-swapper. News.com. April 24, 2003.
- RIAA wins battle to ID Kazaa user . News.com. January 21, 2003.
- It's About Privacy - Not Piracy - Verizon's RIAA v. Verizon press kit summarizes its position on this issue.
- EFF RIAA v. Verizon Case Archive - EFF provides a comprehensive repository for legal material emerging from the RIAA v. Verizon case.
- RIAA's Verizon Case Press Room.
- Subpoenadefense.org - This site is a resource for individuals seeking information on how to defend themselves if their identity has been subpoenaed by a private third party seeking to enforce their copyrights on the Internet. The site was based on the legal issues surrounding RIAA v. Verizon.
- Special Report: Verizon's copyright Campaign - An August 27, 2002, News.com interview with Sarah Deutsch, VP & Associate General Counsel of Verizon, who talks about Verizon's role in the copyright wars.
Last Updated: April 7, 2004
Page URL: http://www.epic.org/privacy/copyright/verizon/default.html