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RIAA Can Unmask Anonymous File Sharers, U.S. Court Rules

If you've ever been unlucky enough to get caught in the crosshairs of a copyright infringement case, chances are that whoever was pressing charges knew your full name. If you think about it, it's pretty creepy. But, according to a U.S. appeals court, it's completely legal.

A recent decision handed down from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals states that the identities of individuals charged with illegal peer-to-peer file sharing can indeed be revealed to the copyright holder who is filing the charges. As Wired reports, the ruling comes after a student at SUNY Albany appealed a federal judge's order that the university reveal the student's identity to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA had detected infringing activity on the university network, and traced the IP address back to the individual. After filing something known as a "John Doe" lawsuit, the RIAA managed to force the ISP to hand over the user's identity.

The student cited a First Amendment-protected right to privacy on the Internet in arguing for the protection, and insisted that the fair-use doctrine had permitted the download of the six songs in question. In its ruling, however, the Court wrote, "To the extent that anonymity is used to mask copyright infringement or to facilitate such infringement by other persons, it is unprotected by the First Amendment." The court added that even if an individual claims fair use in defense against a copyright holder, the plaintiff maintains the right to know the defendant's identity before starting a lawsuit.

Privacy may be becoming a scarce commodity on the Internet today, but we think this is one area where it should be preserved. In a situation where frivolous lawsuits against college kids have already tarnished the recording industry's public image, this only digs the RIAA into a deeper PR grave. We understand the fact that the recording industry wants to do everything it can to protect intellectual property, but forcing its way into people's private lives might be going too far. [From: Wired]

Tags: copyright, CopyrightInfringement, FairUse, file sharing, FileSharing, law, lawsuit, privacy, PrivacyRights, RecordingIndustry, riaa, RiaaLawsuit, security, top