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2nd appeals court tosses music-piracy subpoenas

By The Associated Press
01.05.05

WASHINGTON — A second U.S. appeals court has ruled that the recording industry can't force Internet providers to identify nonpaying music downloaders under a disputed copyright law.

Yesterday's decision doesn't significantly affect the industry's continuing campaign to sue Internet users.

The 2-1 ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis affirms another appeals court's decision in Washington in December 2003. Both courts ruled against efforts by the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade organization for the largest labels, to compel Internet providers to identify customers accused of illegally distributing songs over the Internet.

In the Missouri case, judges said that Charter Communications Inc., one of the nation's largest Internet providers, wasn't responsible for 93 of its customers' allegedly trading 100,000 copyrighted music files across the Internet and shouldn't have been compelled to identify them under the 1988 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The appeals court said Charter's role was "confined to acting as a conduit in the transfer of files through its network."

Since the earlier ruling, the music industry has filed civil lawsuits nationwide against "John Doe" defendants, identified preliminarily from their Internet addresses, then worked through the courts to learn their names. That process is more complicated and more expensive for the record labels.

The RIAA said it would continue to sue thousands of people it accuses of illegally sharing music. "Our enforcement efforts won't miss a beat," spokesman Jonathan Lamy said.

In a dissent, Circuit Judge Diana E. Murphy complained that the rulings prevent copyright holders from easily protecting their works and said repercussions were "too easily ignored or minimized."

She wrote that the industry's practice of filing lawsuits against anonymous defendants was "cumbersome and expensive."


Previous
Recording industry can't have names of music downloaders
Federal appeals court rejects claims that Verizon was responsible for downloaded music because such data files traverse its network. 12.19.03

Related

College causes stir by knocking music-swappers offline

University of Florida officials say they're simply enforcing the law, but civil libertarians say school has become enforcer for recording industry. 11.29.03

Suit claims N.Y. town used false subpoenas to I.D. e-mail critics
Plaintiffs say officials in Albany suburb violated their free speech, retaliated against them for sending anonymous e-mails criticizing emergency services. 08.14.05

RIAA targets college students in music-piracy crackdown
'Obviously I knew it was illegal, but no one got in trouble for it,' says University of Nebraska sophomore who settled her case for $3,000. 05.16.07

Copyright, P2P & Google

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