All Along The File-Sharing Front: Will New York Affect The Rest of America?


Good news, New York file sharers!

Verizon has apparently decided to protect your privacy, despite demands that the internet service provider ID subscribers suspected of copyright infringement.

And the company’s decision — as well as other recent developments intellectual property realm — might have broad implications.

So what’s up?

Not too long ago, John Wiley and Sons, which publishes the “For Dummies” book series, asked Verizon to cooperate in a mass BitTorrent lawsuit — the kind with countless John Doe defendants known only by their IP address, according to TorrentFreak. More than 250,000 of these suits have been filed since 2010.

Verizon refused, claiming that the IP address doesn’t actually provide evidence of wrongdoing, as “the person who pays for the account might not be the infringer.”

The corporation also felt that “information that is protected from disclosure by third parties’ rights of privacy and protections guaranteed by the First Amendment” and that the publisher wanted the info “for improper purposes, namely ‘to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.'”

The publishing company then pushed a court to compel Verizon to release the info via subpoena. The telecom concern still didn’t agree. Wiley wanted the court to compel Verizon, but dropped that demand after talking with the company’s counsel — eventually withdrawing its subpoena altogether.

The significance of all this? For starters, this is one of the few times that a company has successfully stuck up for its users’ rights and demonstrated that compromise can be reached in cases of alleged piracy.

Verizon has also agreed to implement a music and movie industry-backed “six strikes rule,” in which suspected infringers are given six warnings before their internet connections are slowed or cut off.

The company’s non-punitive approach will likely be a litmus test for future policymaking, since it has argued that “strikes” will curb copyright piracy more than civil judgments.

It’s worth noting that when it comes to this kind of stuff, what happens in New York doesn’t appear to stay in New York.

Shortly before the Verizon decision, a New York judge slammed the IP addresses-ID connection, saying: “the person listed as an account holder is often not the person who downloaded the copyrighted material…it is no more likely that the subscriber to an IP address carried out a particular computer function — here the purported illegal downloading of a single pornographic film — than to say an individual who pays the telephone bill made a specific telephone call.” That view was then echoed in a California court, in which a judge decided that IP addresses can’t even ID a state.