South-Western Legal Studies in Business

ISP Providers Must Provide Identity of Subscribers Who May Have Violated Copyrights
Description The owners of copyrights have the right to serve a subpoena on an ISP to obtain the identity of a subscriber who may have violated their copyrights by the illegal downloading of music on the Internet. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides limited liability for ISP providers but requires them to reveal identities of subscribers who may have violated the law.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Digital Millennium Copyright Act; ISP Liability; Subpoena
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copyright owners have the right to serve a subpoena on an Internet service provider (ISP) to obtain the identity of an ISP customer alleged to be infringing the owner’s copyright. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) served a subpoena on Verizon Internet Services to obtain the identity of one of its customers alleged to have infringed copyrights by downloading more than 600 songs on one day. Verizon refused to comply with the subpoena, contending that it does not have to comply for material transmitted over the network, only for material that is stored on the network. RIAA moved to force compliance.
Decision

Motion granted. The DMCA provides unique subpoena powers to copyright owners. The purpose of requiring the ISP providers to produce the names of its customers when there is evidence of copyright infringement is to allow copyright owners to identify infringers.
While the ISP providers have limited liability for copyright violations that their subscribers are responsible for, it does not mean they can avoid the provision of the law requiring compliance with subpoenas.

Citation In re: Verizon Internet Services, Inc., 240 F.Supp.2d 24 (D.D.C., 2003)

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