The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has gone from legally attacking small bootleggers to currently striking a blow to the massive communications conglomerate Verizon. In a landmark decision a judge recently ruled in favor of the RIAA, a watchdog group for record labels, where Verizon must hand over the name of a single person they claim downloaded 600 songs in one day.
The group filed litigation against Verizon last summer when the internet provider declined to give the name of the customer that allegedly downloaded the songs. Verizon claims that doing so would infringe on their customers’ privacy, making them a policing force for the RIAA. In addition, Verzion disputes the notion that they should be required to prevent users from accessing sites that allow illegal file swapping.
Disagreeing Judge John Bates told CNN, “[The law] applies to all internet service providers … not just to those service providers storing information on a system or network at the discretion of a user.”
Verizon is currently in the process of appealing the ruling against them.
“Verizon is not attempting to shield customers who break copyright laws. We are, however, seeking to protect the fundamental privacy and due process rights that should be afforded to our customers and all internet users,” Sarah B. Deutsch, vice president and associate general counsel for Verizon said.
Even more aggressively, Hillary Rosen, chairman and CEO of the RIAA, plans to seek reparations from companies that have offered downloading through file swapping. “We will hold ISPs more accountable. Let’s face it. They know there’s a lot of demand for broadband simply because of the availability (of file-sharing),” said Rosen in a speech at the Midem music conference on the French Riviera.
Furthermore, the RIAA wants schools, businesses and internet providers to locate and turn over those individuals that have illegally downloaded music from the internet.
“Now that the court has ordered Verizon to live up to its obligation under the law, we look forward to contacting the account holder whose identity we were seeking so we can let them know that what they are doing is illegal,” said Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America.
The RIAA represents AOL Time Warner, EMI Group, Sony Corp, Vivendi Universal, and Bertelsmann. They credit file swapping and illegal piracy as the chief contributor to a 6% decline in record sales.