Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

DOJ Backs RIAA In Verizon Fight

from the due-process-is-so-last-milennium dept

It shouldn't be any surprise to most people these days that the current inhabitants of the US Department of Justice don't think too highly of things like "due process" and "innocent until proven guilty". So, I doubt anyone is shocked to hear that they've filed a brief siding with the RIAA against Verizon in the case over whether or not Verizon needs to hand over the names of anyone the RIAA suspects might be sharing files illegally. Verizon argues that it's a violation of privacy (and of the Constitution) and they shouldn't be forced to hand over such information. They point out that if they're forced to, than just about anyone can file requests for the private info of their customers with no real legal review. The DOJ, on the other hand, says that they don't see how this is a Constitutional issue - though, their reasoning is almost comic. They say there is no "realistic danger that such a compromise would occur". Whether or not the threat is realistic, if the law does provide a compromise on people's privacy, shouldn't it be declared unconstitutional?

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  • identicon
    Rick Colosimo, 21 Apr 2003 @ 9:46am

    Legal issues <>common-sense approach

    Most people who aren't lawyers (and many lawyers) don't have the kind of specific understanding of constitutional law required to properly analyze these types of issues.

    There's no "right to privacy" written into the Constitution. There are constitutionally protected rights to privacy, but the fact that there's no specific text means that it's far less clear than you might think.

    Verizon's real complaint isn't the "rights" of its customers; it's the expense of having to comply with civil subpoenas from the RIAA's lawsuits against these people "to be named later." This scenario is entirely separate from any reasonable constitutional issue. This is not a case of the DOJ or a state police entity trying to get information without a warrant (assuming a warrant is even required).

    General rule: if the state or the federal government is not the one doing the action, there's seldom a constitutional issue involved; this is the "state action" requirement. For example, the Nike case has a constitutional dimension because there's a law that *might* make Nike's statements illegal, and that state action is what Nike is challenging.

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