A Big Win For Common Sense

A federal appeals court has ruled that the RIAA has no legal right to subpoena ISPs for the names of music downloaders. The opinion in the Verizon case can be found here. It’s a rather short opinion, but exceptionally dense as it refers to very specific provisions within the DMCA. (And since I’m still on vacation, I’m not going to bother reading through all the case law necessary to get the full background on the issues in the opinion…) However, the conclusion does give a good view into the court’s overall reasoning:

We are not unsympathetic either to the RIAA’s concern regarding the widespread infringement of its members’ copyrights, or to the need for legal tools to protect those rights. It is not the province of the courts, however, to rewrite the DMCA in order to make it fit a new and unforseen internet architecture, no matter how damaging that development has been to the music industry or threatens being to the motion picture and software industries. The plight of copyright holders must be addressed in the first instance by the Congress; only the ‘‘Congress has the constitutional authority
and the institutional ability to accommodate fully the varied permutations of competing interests that are inevitably implicated by such new technology.’’ See Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417, 431 (1984).

In other words, the RIAA can’t argue that the DMCA gives them the power to reinterpret the law to fit their own aims. This is certainly a heartening decision, but I have a feeling it won’t be the final decision on this issue.

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