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Copyright Battle Threatens Right to Surf and Email Anonymously

June 20, 2006

Copyright Battle Threatens Right to Surf and Email Anonymously

EFF Argues Against Broad Subpoena for User Identities

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued Tuesday that a battle between Internet real estate services over copyrighted images should not threaten the rights of users to surf web pages and send emails anonymously.

The case began when CoStar, a real estate information database, subpoenaed LoopNet, an online real estate forum, over copyrighted photographs that appeared on LoopNet's service. However, CoStar demanded not only the identification of the uploaders of the offending images, but also identification of "downloaders" -- using a dangerously broad definition that includes both those who simply view the photos online and those who merely email links to the photos to others.

"If upheld, this subpoena would pierce the anonymity of virtually anyone who has ever received, forwarded, or clicked on a link to a webpage that happened at one time to contain a thumbnail of a photograph to which CoStar owns the copyright," said EFF Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry.

"Courts have long recognized that the right to engage in anonymous communication is fundamental to a free society," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "CoStar wants to strip Internet users of that anonymity just because they clicked on a link."

The next hearing in CoStar v. LoopNet is set for August 2.

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/Costar_v_Loopnet/EFF_amicus_costar_v_loopnet.pdf

Contacts:

Corynne McSherry
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

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