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RealTime IT News

Verizon-RIAA Dispute Heads Back to Court

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) officially filed its opposition Friday to Verizon's motion for a stay of last month's court order that the phone giant comply with a subpoena by the RIAA demanding the name of a Verizon subscriber who allegedly downloaded more than 600 copyrighted music files.

Verizon, which is appealing the court decision, filed on Jan. 30 for a stay in hopes of maintaining the status quo until the appeal process is resolved. The RIAA insists Verizon immediately comply with the court order to turn over the name of the alleged infringer. A hearing on the stay request is set for Thursday in Washington.

"There is no right to anonymously commit crimes. No one, including Verizon, disputes that its users are downloading and disseminating copyrighted works in violation of the law," said Matthew Oppenheim, SVP of business and legal affairs at RIAA. "Individuals who infringe music on P2P networks are not engaged in private conduct; they are agreeing to freely share files on their hard drives with millions of other users on a public network."

Citing provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the RIAA in August asked a federal district court to enforce the subpoena, which seeks information related to "a computer connected to the Verizon network that is a hub for significant music piracy." The motion said Verizon is the only entity that can identify the infringer behind the computer.

Verizon refused to comply with the subpoena, arguing it didn't think the subpoena request met the circumstances that the DMCA allows for in compelling information in order to protect against piracy. Verizon contended the subpoena related to material transmitted over Verizon's network, but not stored on it, and thus fell outside the subpoena power authorized in the DMCA.

In ruling in the RIAA's favor, the court concluded, "that the subpoena power ... applies to all Internet service providers within the scope of the DMCA, not just to those service providers storing information on a system or network at the direction of a user."

In announcing its appeal, Sarah B. Deutsch, vice president and associate general counsel for Verizon, said, "The court's decision has troubling ramifications for consumers, service providers and the growth of the Internet. It opens the door for anyone who makes a mere allegation of copyright infringement to gain complete access to private subscriber information without the due process protections afforded by the courts."