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October 12, 2004
Supreme Court Denies Cert in RIAA v. Verizon
This just in: the Supreme Court has denied cert in RIAA v. Verizon, the case in which the recording industry initially won the right to unmask an anonymous KaZaA user with a special non-judicial, PATRIOT Act-like subpoena under the DMCA. The DC Circuit reversed (PDF) that ruling, but the RIAA appealed. Now the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case. It's wonderful news.
Despite the rhetoric surrounding P2P, this case is not about filesharers "hiding" from the law. It's about making sure that the law keeps protecting innocents until there is a bare minimum showing of illegal activity. Just because someone suspects you of being a "pirate" -- or would like to use claims of copyright infringement to gain easy access to your personal information -- does not make you guilty until proven innocent.
The DMCA allows anyone simply claiming copyright infringement the ability to get your name, address, phone number, etc. This removes critical constitutional and privacy safeguards on the mere assertion of wrongdoing. Many people are angry about the PATRIOT Act for removing these kinds of safeguards. Shift the context to filesharing, and they tend to shrug it off because it's about "pirates." But it's the same Consitution, and the same rights are being eroded.
Later: Wendy Seltzer @ Deep Links: "The Supreme Court's refusal to take the case leaves the DC Circuit's well reasoned opinion as law: The DMCA doesn't give the RIAA a blank fishing license to issue subpoenas and invade Internet users' privacy."
Later #2: Sarah Deutsch: "This decision means copyright holders and their representatives -- or identity thieves and stalkers posing as copyright holders -- will not be allowed to obtain personal information about Internet users by simply filing a one-page form with a court clerk."
Later #3: The Associated Press makes a mistake right off the bat in its coverage, claiming that the Supreme Court "sidestepped a dispute over whether Internet providers can be forced to identify subscribers illegally swapping music and movies online." Without a court, or indeed, any showing whatsover, we can't say these subscribers have done anything illegal. This dispute is about whether Internet providers can be forced to identify subscribers accused of swapping copyrighted files, on the mere rubber-stamped say-so of the copyright holder.
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