Verizon, Once Again, Fights For Consumer Privacy Against Copyright Shakedown Attempts

from the good-for-them dept

The internet sometimes has a short memory. While Verizon is often (quite accurately) seen as a big company that does some ridiculous things, one issue that the company has been good about for many years is fighting against overly aggressive attempts by copyright holders to identify IP address holders. A decade ago, Verizon was the key player in pushing back on the RIAA's attempts to identify people it accused of file sharing without filing a lawsuit. If you don't recall, the RIAA used a rather unique (i.e. totally bogus) interpretation of the DMCA to mean that it could issue subpoenas to ISPs to identify users based on an IP address without first filing a lawsuit. Verizon fought this claim (pretty strongly) and argued for its users' privacy rights, and eventually the court sided with Verizon. In fact, this fight was a large part of the reason that the RIAA started actually suing users, because it meant that it had to sue first in order to identify.

Thus, it's not entirely surprising -- but still nice -- to find out that Verizon is, once again, fighting to protect its users' privacy. Last fall, we wrote about the unfortunate decision by publisher John Wiley & Sons to follow the trail led by copyright trolls, and start suing groups of people accused of sharing Wiley's infamous "For Dummies" books via BitTorrent. Similar to copyright trolls, Wiley lumped together a bunch of IP addresses into a single lawsuit -- though, it didn't go quite as far as some trolling operations.

Even so, Verizon is going to court to fight back against the subpoenas for user information. It has a few procedural objections, and also noted (as many courts have found) that lumping together many people in the same lawsuit is improper joinder. But the key issues are privacy ones. Verizon objected that the identifying information isn't really designed to get "relevant" information for a lawsuit, but rather to send a settlement letter (like most copyright trolling operations). Furthermore, Verizon takes it up a notch by claiming that disclosing such information may violate "rights of privacy and protections guaranteed by the First Amendment."

Apparently, there will be a discussion with the court concerning these objections soon, but in the mean time, it's good to see Verizon, once again, defending some privacy rights for its users.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Eponymous Coward, May 11th, 2012 @ 2:25pm

    In this increasingly contentious, and litigious, climate we're in Verizon should use their defense of customers in their marketing and PR. It definitely gives them a slight halo in my eyes.

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

  2. icon
    AzureSky (profile), May 11th, 2012 @ 3:44pm

    if only

    if only they hadnt signed an accord with cable providers to stop expanding FIOS....but we love our monopolies in this i guess thats to be expected.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2012 @ 3:52pm

    good on Verizon. if they are compelled to hand info over, i hope the backlash means that a complete boycott of Wiley publications comes about. i suppose the real reason for the action in the first place is the lack of sales and this is seen as a way of recouping some money!

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2012 @ 5:42pm

    I have to admit, Verizon's been a PITA lately trying to crowbar us into FIOS, but this makes me slightly less likely to switch in the next couple of months. I do wish they weren't part of that silly six strikes system. That undermines what they're fighting for here.

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

  5. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 11th, 2012 @ 11:07pm

    Or maybe $45 a head isn't enough to sell out their customers. (If your keeping score that is what I believe is paid per lookup to Verizon.)

    I mean in those few places where people have choice in providers, are you going to stay with the provider that answered a subpoena and handed a troll your information?
    Especially when it might have been that same ISP that installed your wireless router that had no security in the first place?
    As was seen in the NY ruling, even innocent people willing to prove well beyond a shadow of a doubt they were not and had never infringed on this trolls copyright they still just want to know when your going to pay up.
    With the lawyers playing fast and loose with this new idea of negligence for your wifi not being secured and demanding damages for that, the pressure is actually starting to tick up on the ISPs to actually consider if the revenue from the lookups is worth the loss of revenue from customers leaving and possibly suing under the same idea of negligence. I mean its a far fetched principle but find me a jury who doesn't want to kick a corporation in the current climate.

    Oh and as a signatory to the 6 strikes program they might want to try to improve their image before allowing a 3rd party run by a PR lobbyist firm to cut off their customers or demand $35 to even consider the allegations being made have merit.

    Why let other people shear the sheep when you can do it yourself.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 11th, 2012 @ 11:44pm

    The official statement by Verizon went as follows: "We refuse to to identify users... for dummies."

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 12th, 2012 @ 7:27am


    $45 isn't even a month's worth of broadband from a single customer. How cheap.

    Also, how do they handle lookup for rotating dsl IP addresses? Do the companies asking even bother to provide timestamps?

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

  8. icon
    Thomas (profile), May 12th, 2012 @ 8:16am

    So Nice!

    to see Verizon taking the proper stand! IP addresses change and wi-fi routers can be hacked without the owner's knowledge, especially for a non-tech user. I remember helping a friend who was on Verizo FIOS, and she was wishing she had wi-fi instead of the ethernet connection to the router. I looked at the router, wrote down the address/key, then took her upstairs and showed her how to do it. She had the router for more than a year and didn't know she had wi-fi.

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

  9. identicon
    phil62, May 12th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

    A Simple Way Out

    The best thing for Verizon (and other ISP's for that matter) to do is NOT keep records of what IP addresses they have assigned for any longer than they need to for their own use. A day or so should be sufficient. Simply answer the subpoena with a "no gots!"

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

  10. identicon
    justintoxicated, May 12th, 2012 @ 2:23pm

    this is great. maybe one day this will be the norm.
    yeah, @thomas if someone hacks into your wireless and downloads a bunch of crap it looks like you did it. then say the ISP uses an ip location tool like and find the physical location for that ip. its going to look like you did it, not the intruder. thankfully they are usually a neighbor or something and the police can get a warrent to do... whatever it is they do to catch pirates.

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

  11. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), May 12th, 2012 @ 3:26pm


    Then they'd have to explain how the mass wiretapping devices they allowed the gov to install are protecting their customer's privacy.

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

  12. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 12th, 2012 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    They have "records" catching IP addresses being parts of swarms.
    The screenshots have a time and date.
    After it was mentioned somewhere, by some guy with a Guy Fawkes avatar, that even a 1 minute discrepancy between their "capture" and the ISP logs could point to the wrong customers, they started touting how their records were sure to be accurate because they were keeping their time synced with one of the atomic time servers.

    Of course no court seems to be aware of the university study that shows you can frame an IP address, a laser printer on their network was alleged to have uploaded "The Matrix", and that this tech can never actually catch the "criminal". At best it can lead you to where they might have been borrowing signal, but that would require investigation once you had the name... and that costs money.
    They are already spending way to much on these cases, $350 to get the names of several thousand people and then $45 a head to get the report, then sending each one a scary letter threatening to ruin their good name but it can all go away for a few thousand dollars... much less than getting a lawyer to defend you in court.

    "Its a nice house, it would be a shame if it burned to the ground..." with a law degree. I guess that is the distinction that makes it not extortion.

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

  13. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 13th, 2012 @ 7:38am


    They don't catch them.
    The send scary letters to the person paying the bill and suggest that they will face liability because it is their connection so its better to just pay a small fee than drag this out in court.

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

  14. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), May 13th, 2012 @ 7:39am

    Re: A Simple Way Out

    Except for those pesky Congresscritters who were pushing for data retention laws running around 5 years IIRC.
    It was for the children, and to stop terrorists...

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 14th, 2012 @ 7:36am

    If they do end up having to hand over names and addresses, they should send out their own letter first that explains what is going on and directs them to forward copies of any settlement offers etc, and let their lawyers use it to fight them in court.

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

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