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Court Gives Hollywood Broad Powers to Violate Your Privacy

PRESS RELEASE
April 24, 2003

The D.C. District Court today ruled that alleged copyright infringers are to be deemed guilty until proven innocent.

Judge Bates agreed with RIAA that copyright holders can issue subpoenas to ISPs to demand identifying information about any Internet users based upon a mere allegation of infringement, with no notice to the user or judicial review of the claim required. In his second decision in support of the RIAA, Judge Bates rejected the arguments of Verizon, supported by 28 consumer and privacy groups and 18 ISPs and ISP organizations, that this sweeping new power violated the First Amendment right to anonymity and privacy rights of Internet users. He also rejected the argument that the law violated the constitutional requirement that private parties can only use subpoenas to get private information about ordinary citizens in the context of a current or imminent lawsuit.

The ruling is available here.

"This ruling means that the RIAA, or anyone else claiming to represent a copyright owner, can demand that your ISP turn over your identity to them without any notice to you or the opportunity to prove that you didn't do anything wrong," noted Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "The privacy of Internet users has taken a big blow today."

"It seems clear that the RIAA alone intends to use this power to demand the identities of thousands of Internet users, likely using the same 'bots that recently claimed that a public film hosted at the Internet Archive was infringing because it had the same name as a Hollywood film (U-571) and that a Harry Potter book report was an illegal copy of the movie," noted Cindy Cohn, EFF's Legal Director. "Once again the claim of potential copyright infringement is an excuse to degrade the privacy and constitutional privacy rights of ordinary Internet users."

The EFF is leading a bipartisan group of 28 consumer and privacy groups, including the Consumers Union, ACLU and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, along with over 18 ISPs and ISP organizations in support of Verizon. The argument on the Appeal before the D.C. Circuit Court is currently set for September 16, 2003.

For further information contact:
Cindy Cohn (415) 436-9333 x108 or Cindy@eff.org

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