Verizon Vows to Continue to Protect Subscriber Privacy

WASHINGTON - Verizon today said it would immediately ask a U.S. Appeals Court for a stay of a lower court ruling forcing the company to reveal the identity of an Internet subscriber accused of music piracy. Verizon is seeking to protect a subscriber's privacy following a decision today by U.S. District Court Judge John Bates to deny the company's original request for a stay. The case stems from a subpoena filed last summer by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) demanding that Verizon Online turn over the name of a customer whom the RIAA alleges possesses illegal copies of copyrighted music files on the customer's personal computer. Verizon refused to comply, noting that the subpoena did not comply with the requirements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which applies only to files hosted on an Internet company's network and not on the computer in a subscriber's home or office. The RIAA sued Verizon to enforce the subpoena. On Jan. 21, Judge Bates ruled in favor of the RIAA. The following week, Verizon filed for a stay of the judge's decision pending an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals. In his ruling today, Judge Bates upheld the constitutionality of the subpoena requirement even though the subpoena was issued outside any "case or controversy." Judge Bates today also issued a temporary stay to allow the Court of Appeals time to consider the issue of a stay. The following response should be attributed to John Thorne, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Verizon.

"Today's ruling goes far beyond the interests of large copyright monopolists -- such as RIAA -- in enforcing its copyrights. This decision exposes anyone who uses the Internet to potential predators, scam artists and crooks, including identity thieves and stalkers. We will continue to use every legal means available to protect our subscribers' privacy and will immediately seek a stay from the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals has already agreed to hear this important Internet privacy case on an expedited schedule.

"Verizon sought the stay in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to preserve the privacy of its subscriber and to allow the U.S. Court of Appeals the opportunity to review the important statutory and constitutional issues raised in this case.

"Verizon feels very strongly that the privacy, safety and due process rights of hundreds of thousands -- or perhaps millions -- of Internet subscribers hang in the balance of the court's decision. We look to the Court of Appeals to decide this case in a narrow manner that avoids a chilling effect on Internet users' private communications, such as e-mail, instant messages or surfing the Internet."