Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

RIAA, Verizon Head Back To Court Over Subpoenas

from the continuing-the-battle dept

While Verizon failed in its original bid to protect the privacy of one of their users from random RIAA subpoenas not backed up by a lawsuit, the case is still going on. In fact, Verizon has expanded the case. While, originally, they argued that they were exempt from the DMCA subpoenas since they weren't storying anything on their own servers - but that the file sharing was being done on individuals' home computers. Now, however, they're challenging the very constitutionality of the DMCA subpoena power, which makes it possible for anyone to send a subpoena just by filling out a form and claiming that a copyright violation has occurred. There's simply no oversight, and Verizon says they wonder how this can be constitutional. While (obviously), Verizon is doing this out of self-interest (not to be bombarded with subpoenas - and possibly because they know that file sharing is a prime motivator for getting folks to sign up for DSL), the claims do make sense. Already there have been stories of porn sites using the subpoena power to hit up ISPs to get records on everyone who visits their site. Of course, we have a long way to go before a final decision. The latest set of arguments will go before the Court of Appeals, meaning we still have to wait a while before it is (inevitably) appealed again to the Supreme Court. It may be years before a decision is reached. In the meantime, all we can hope for is that some politicians come to their sense and pre-emptively change the law. Update: Meanwhile, the NY Times is reporting that SBC remains the lone holdout refusing to cough up names to the RIAA, claiming that they feel obligated to protect their subscribers' privacy. The RIAA says the case is all about how SBC profits from file sharing - but I'm not sure why that would matter. After all, one assumes the RIAA is filing these lawsuits in the first place because they're hoping (wishfully, it seems) to profit as well.

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  • identicon
    Zonker, 16 Sep 2003 @ 8:59am

    Specious argument

    The argument that an ISP is "profiting" from file sharing is pretty ridiculous. Many ISPs hate file sharing because of the bandwidth that it consumes, and are considering levying additional charges against broadband users for daily or monthly transfers in excess of a certain amount. I don't see how SBC or anyone else benefits from file sharing when subscribers do not pay any extra for the additional bandwidth it consumes, and would likely maintain the same level of service whether or not they were using KaZaa or whatever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Munich, 16 Sep 2003 @ 9:41am

      Not if it drives volume

      The argument is that demand for song swapping drives people to upgrade from the pokey phone connection to broadband, therefore allowing SBC to charge them >$50 a month for access rather than about $20 a month for that extra phone line. This upgrade in service at least drives more revenue for SBC, although not necessarially profit.< br>

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2003 @ 10:45am


    "..would likely maintain the same level of service whether or not they were using KaZaa or whatever."

    That is an assumption to say the least. While many internet enthusiasts would probably keep their connections, the average user never comes close to consuming their available bandwidth without file sharing.

    Say what you will about streaming video or other forms of online content, but if file sharing does down I'm seriously considering downgrading my connectivity. There is simply more to life than paying to watch tiny little video clips over the Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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