Mobile News industry
Book publisher's subpoena for user data refused by Verizon
05/13/12, 12:15am
Book publisher John Wiley and Sons has run into an unusual opponent in court -- an ISP. Verizonis refusing to comply with a subpoena ordering the company to disclose personal details of subscribers whose IP addresses have been logged pirating their popular "For Dummies" series of self-help guides. All of the subscribers allegedly acquired the copies of the books through BitTorrent-based websites.

Historically, most internet providers turn over customer data when requested by a court in order to comply with DMCA safe harbor provisions absolving the ISP of any responsibility for an alleged infringement. Verizon has refused to turn over this set of data, and claims that Wiley is only requesting the data to "harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation."

Verizon lawyers view the subpoena as unlikely to discover any relevant information to the case. Five other objections to the subpoena have been filed, including privacy concerns and First Amendment issues. Verizon has been requested to provide information on only 10 account holders. Most ISP objections are based on business concerns, making Verizon's complaint on behalf of the customer unusual. Wiley appears to be the first example of a book publisher going after downloaders in court.

Verizon may be emboldened by a change in judicial thinking about the strategy of using IP addresses to track down and sue alleged pirates. A New York judge in a different case ruled that IP addresses alone aren't enough to accuse someone of downloading material illegally, since more than one person can use the connection (and in the case of unsecured or public networks, many people including complete strangers to the owner of the network can still utilize it).

"The assumption that the person who pays for Internet access at a given location is the same individual who allegedly downloaded [copyrighted material] is tenuous, and one that has grown more so over time," wrote Judge Gary Brown in his dismissal of a mass "John Doe" lawsuit against alleged pirates of a pornographic movie. "An IP address provides only the location at which one of any number of computer devices may be deployed, much like a telephone number can be used for any number of telephones."

Wiley's attorneys have demanded the court compel Verizon to provide the data regardless of Verizon's objection. Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York has not responded to either filing, and has scheduled a telephone conference for next week. [via Torrent Freak]

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