• United States
by Ann Harrison

ISPs speak out against forced outing of alleged copyright infringer

Feb 04, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLegalVerizon

* Verizon gathers support from rivals in RIAA case

When the music industry last month successfully subpoenaed Verizon to turn over the names of a subscriber suspected of file trading other ISPs knew that they too were vulnerable.

Several ISPs have started to speak out against the forced disclosure that was approved by a judge after Verizon took the case to court. The Recording Industry Association of America forced Verizon to identify the name of its subscriber under a provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but ISPs say this puts their customers’ privacy and due process rights at risk.

In a statement, Mike Lamb, AT&T’s chief privacy officer (CPO), said: “The court should not open the door for anyone who makes a mere allegation of copyright infringement to gain complete access to private subscriber information without due process of law. Such extraordinary disclosure obligations should be construed narrowly to afford subscribers the opportunity to challenge the requested disclosure.”

The RIAA brushed aside privacy concerns and argues the real issue is what it claims is the illegal downloading of more than two billion music files each month. Les Seagraves, Earthlink’s CPO says the law is misapplied and notes that when the DMCA was passed back in 1998 P2P file trading was not yet a mainstream phenomenon.

He told “Wired News”: “This law is supposed to be a shield, and I think the RIAA is using it as a sword. It’s designed to protect people’s copyright. It’s not designed so we can just turn somebody over to the copyright holder with no due process.”

Hopefully, many ISPs would oppose the turning over of suspected copyright infringers when they figure out that they should not have to monitor what their subscribers download. If they are forced into this role, they will have to contend with disclosure requests from any number of entertainment groups, including film makers, book publishers, photographers, and computer game creators. Should your ISPs monitor the content of your shared files to see if they violate copyright?

This policing action will be an expensive and time-consuming burden to ISPs. Verizon is appealing against the RIAA request. Let’s hope other ISP will rally their money, the lawyers and whatever political clout they possess to change the DMCA or reverse its twisted interpretation.