Verizon Ordered to Reveal Names of Music Pirates

The U.S. Court of Appeals Wednesday afternoon rejected Verizon’s for request for a stay in earlier court ruling ordering the telecom giant to turn over the names of two subscribers suspected of illegally downloading copyrighted music.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) originally brought suit against Verizon last August using a controversial provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that allows copyright owners to issue subpoenas without a judicial review.

Unlike a usual subpoena, which requires some underlying claim of a crime and must be signed by a judge or magistrate, under the DMCA a subpoena can be issued by a court clerk without presenting evidence of a crime being committed.

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 scope of the subpoena power authorized in the DMCA.

Verizon also contended the RIAA’s action violated the First Amendment right to anonymity and privacy rights of Internet users.

In January, a U.S. District Court ruled in the RIAA’s favor and ordered Verizon to turn over the names. Since then, Verizon has been seeking a stay in order to protect the names while the company appeals the decision. In April, U.S. District Judge John Bates rejected Verizon’s stay request but granted a temporary stay until the Court of Appeals could decide the matter.

“The Court of Appeals decision confirms our long-held position that music pirates must be held accountable for their actions, and not be allowed to hide behind the company that provides their Internet service,” Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA said in a statement Wednesday. “The courts have repeatedly affirmed that the DMCA subpoena authority is constitutional, and does not threaten anyone’s free speech or privacy rights. Given that an epidemic of illegal downloading is threatening the livelihoods of artists, songwriters and tens of thousands of other recording industry workers who bring music to the public, we look forward to Verizon’s speedy compliance with this ruling.”

Both sides in the dispute have said they believe the case will eventually end up at the Supreme Court as test case about the subpoena power of the DMCA.

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