WASHINGTON - Verizon declared victory for consumer safety and privacy today when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia announced it has struck down a controversial lower-court ruling that had forced Internet service providers to reveal the identity of any Internet subscriber accused of music piracy. (Please refer to the second page of this news release for additional background information about the case.) The following response should be attributed to Sarah Deutsch, vice president and associate general counsel for Verizon.
"Today's ruling is an important victory for Internet users and all consumers. The court has knocked down a dangerous procedure that threatens Americans' traditional legal guarantees and violates their constitutional rights.
"This decision removes the threat of a radical, new subpoena process that empowers copyright holders or anyone merely claiming to be a copyright holder to obtain personal information about Internet users by simply filing a one-page form with a court clerk. This harmful procedure exposes anyone who uses the Internet to potential predators, scam artists and crooks -- including identity thieves and stalkers.
"Copyright holders seeking personal information about Internet subscribers will now have to file a traditional lawsuit. These requests will undergo scrutiny by a judge, thus preserving the privacy, safety and legal rights of every Internet subscriber.
"Today's decision also confirms that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act strikes a fair and reasonable balance between the rights of consumers and the rights of copyright holders. Copyright infringement is a serious problem. We remain committed to working with the copyright community to find a solution that balances the needs of artists, Internet providers and consumers."
This case stems from a new type of subpoena filed last year by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). This test subpoena, issued by the clerk of a court, rather than a judge or magistrate, demanded that Verizon Online turn over the name of a customer whom the RIAA accused of possessing illegal copies of copyrighted music files on the customer's personal computer. Verizon refused, 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 provider's network and not to private communications on a subscriber's home computer.
The RIAA sued Verizon to enforce the subpoena. On Jan. 21, a court ruled in favor of the RIAA. Verizon immediately sought and was granted an expedited appeal at the Court of Appeals, which was heard on Sept. 16. Since July, the RIAA has filed thousands of subpoenas.
While Verizon vigorously supports the protection of copyrights, it has frequently noted that the RIAA enjoys access to numerous other legal avenues that promote copyright protection without sacrificing the safety and privacy of Internet users. A fair and reasonable balance between consumers' rights and copyright holders' rights must be preserved.