October 12, 2004 | By Donna Wentworth

No "Fishing License" for the RIAA

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 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DC Circuit reversed (PDF) that ruling, but the RIAA appealed. Now the Supreme Court has declined to hear the case.

This is very good news for a number of reasons. First, it affirms that using a peer-to-peer file-sharing program does not automatically strip you of your right to privacy or anonymity on the Internet. Second, it's an important check on the DMCA, which allows anyone simply claiming copyright infringement the ability to get your name, address, phone number, etc. Critical constitutional and privacy safeguards should not be removed wholesale on the mere assertion of wrongdoing.

This is not about P2P 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're 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.

Said EFF's Wendy Seltzer, who worked on the case, "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."


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