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In File-Sharing Witchhunts, RIAA Is Foiled Again

October 12, 2004

In File-Sharing Witchhunts, RIAA Is Foiled Again

Washington, DC - Today, the Supreme Court denied a request by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to hear its appeal of a lower court decision that Internet service providers (ISPs) do not have to hand over the names of people suspected of copyright infringement.

The case grows out of an incident in which the RIAA used a controversial subpoena provision under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to demand that Verizon Internet Services reveal the identity of a Verizon subscriber who allegedly used KaZaA peer-to-peer software to share copyrighted music online. Verizon refused to divulge the subscriber's identity, claiming that the provision didn't cover alleged copyright-infringing material that resides on an individual's computer, only material that resides on an ISP's server.

After the District Court rejected Verizon's interpretation of the DMCA subpoena provision, Verizon appealed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) led a coalition of public interest groups and ISPs who filed friend-of-the court briefs in support of Verizon, arguing that RIAA's subpoenas failed to respect the privacy and First Amendment rights of Internet users. The DC Circuit Court found the subpoenas were not authorized by the DMCA. It granted Verizon's request to quash a second subpoena it had received in the meantime, and said that the ISP would not have to hand over information requested in the first.

But the RIAA didn't give up. First, it requested a rehearing in the DC Circuit court, but was denied. And finally, it appealed to the Supreme Court.

"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," said EFF Staff Attorney Wendy Seltzer.

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Wendy Seltzer
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
wendy@eff.org

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