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Another Appeals Court Rejects Copyright Subpoenas

Saturday, January 1, 2005


The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) this week lost the same court battle for a second time, in a different court. Echoing a December 2003 decision by the U.S. court of appeals in Washington, the appeals court in St. Louis rejected the trade group's argument that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act compels Internet service providers to reveal the identities of their customers who are accused of trading copyrighted songs. The court said in its 2-1 decision that in order to obtain users' identities, the RIAA must file "John Doe" lawsuits against those individuals. Filing such lawsuits, which the RIAA has been doing since the Washington ruling, is more costly and time-consuming than its earlier practice of simply subpoenaing identities of suspected illegal file traders. Despite losing its argument a second time, the RIAA said it will continue to seek prosecution of copyright infringement and that its "enforcement efforts won't miss a beat." Circuit Judge Diana E. Murphy, who wrote the dissenting opinion in the St. Louis court, called the process of filing individual lawsuits "cumbersome and expensive" and said the courts' rulings impose unnecessary hurdles to the protection of copyrighted material.

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