Court Says File Sharers Have No Right To Anonymity... Mostly
from the with-a-little-exception dept
Thomas O'Toole alerts us to a recent ruling highlighting the rather unsurprising fact that file sharers can't hide behind a First Amendment anonymity claim to prevent an ISP from handing over their info. While I'm a big supporter of US courts properly recognizing that the First Amendment protects sites from being compelled to reveal anonymous commenters, this lawsuit definitely seemed like a huge stretch. However, O'Toole does note that this appeals court ruling did make one important correction to the lower court's magistrate judge, who had claimed that simply by putting files on a file sharing site, users had given up anonymity:
Lastly, as precedents have advised us, the Doe Defendants have a minimal expectation of privacy, especially when they allegedly engaged in P2P network sharing. Conceptually, the notion of allowing others to have access to one's database by virtue of the Internet in order to pluck from a computer information and data that the computer owner or user wishes to share renders void any pretext of privacy.
But that makes little sense, of course. Thankfully, the appeals court pointed that out:
The privacy claimed here is not for the information that the computer owner or user wishes to share but rather for his or her identity.
Indeed. Sharing data doesn't mean you are sharing your identity. Of course, that fine point didn't matter in the larger context of the ruling, but it's still a good point to raise.