The DMCA

Update: May 14, 2004

Various updates:

For the most recent updates, I recommend keeping an eye on Slashdot.

Update: Jan. 7, 2004

Last month, a judge from the US Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia made an important ruling on the legality of the subpoenas issued by the RIAA through the DMCA. The decision says that the RIAA does not have the right to subpoena ISP's for personally identifying information.

Explanation through example:

Previously, the RIAA would find IP addresses of people they believed to be violating copyright laws. Although IP addresses uniquely identify each computer on the Internet, there is no public directory linking IP addresses to people's names. The main way of finding out which person is associated with an IP address is to ask the ISP (Internet Service Provider) responsible for that IP address. That is, to ask the company who is responsible for connecting that IP address to the rest of the Internet. For privacy reasons, companies won't give this information out. So when the RIAA got an IP address, they would subpoena the ISP to release that information so that they could identify who the person is. The subpoena forces the ISP to release this information by law. Specifically, it is the DMCA (see below) that allowed the RIAA to do this.

The problem is that, as the judge ruled, the DMCA's subpoena cannot be used in this way. It only allows the RIAA to get information from an ISP if they already have a name. (More information on one ISP's new policy (Cox)).

This is my understanding of the ruling, but I'm not a lawyer. I recommend you read it for yourself (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

(my original article follows):

I'm going to be honest and straightforward. I don't yet know a whole lot about the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. I'm trying to learn more, but as I understand it now, I am outraged about several major points, the first of which is the motivation for this article.

As you may or may not be aware, record companies recently filed suit against several hundred people for illegally sharing copyrighted material. What you are less likely aware of is that these peoples' names, addresses, and phone numbers were obtained by the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America - what most people just call "the record companies") using subpoena's authorized by the DMCA.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this, except for how the subpoenas are obtained. They are unlike normal subpoenas, in that "DMCA subpoenas can be filed prior to any charges of infringement, are not subject to a review by a judge, and requires no notice to, or opportunity to be heard by, the alleged infringer" (InternetNews, emphasis my own).

Does this not outrage you?! It does me. And I can't believe this law was actually passed. If you feel like me, and have some ideas or just want to discuss it, email me. I have some ideas, but I'm still thinking about it...


Back to Computing and Security Info

Back to Phoenix Web Home.


Last updated 2004-05-14