South-Western Legal Studies in Business

ISPs Need Not Provide Data about Subscribers Who Are File Sharing
Description Appeals court held that the owners of copyrighted songs being sent in file form on the Internet did not have the right to obtain a subpoena to serve on ISP to force them to provide details about the owners of Internet addresses.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Digital Millennium Copyright Act; Infringement; ISP; Subpoenas; P2P File Sharing
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts P2P systems, such as KaZaA, Grokster, Morpheus, and iMesh allow users to disseminate files from one computer to other Internet users. About 90% of the content on P2P systems is copyrighted movies, software, images and music that are shared without permission. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) identified various subscribers to ISP Charter who were infringing on copyrighted music by sharing the files. Only the ISP can link a particular IP address with an individual's name and physical address. The RIAA moved to enforce subpoenas issued by the district court that required Charter to produce the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of about 200 Charter subscribers. Charter appealed enforcement of the subpoenas.
Decision

Vacated and remanded. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not authorize copyright owners to obtain and serve subpoenas on ISPs to obtain personal information about ISP subscribers who are alleged to be transmitting copyrighted works on the internet using P2P file sharing computer programs. The subpoenas seeking to identify infringers is available only where the ISP is performing a storage or linking function, not when it is merely performing a transmission function.

Citation In re: Charter Communications, Inc., 393 F.3d 771 (8th Cir., 2005)

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