IT Should Support Verizon in Privacy Suit

Corporate data-and your right to protect it-are at stake.

Im going to lobby the legal department of Ziff Davis Media (publisher of eWEEK) to file an amicus curiae brief in Verizons appeal of an order sought by the Recording Industry Association of America, which forces Verizon to reveal the identity of a subscriber who is suspected of downloading copyright-protected content.

RIAA is using the overbroad subpoena power of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to ferret out the suspect Verizon subscriber.

One powerful leg of Verizons defense is that the subpoena was issued without the supervision of a judge. Another leg of that defense, as I understand the action, argues that the subpoena was issued in advance of the RIAA having a "cause or controversy" before the court.

Suppose the RIAA succeeds in prying out the user information it desires. And lets even suppose that RIAA finds that someone on a corporate network downloaded copyrighted material. It seems the next logical step is that RIAA will subpoena the users other storage areas looking for pop music.

Suddenly a junior database administrators "transgression" means that all areas where he or she could have hidden copyrighted material will be subject to search. This means the entire organizations CRM database could be shipped off to RIAA analysts looking for forensic data of misdeeds.

The Internets ability to quickly mass-distribute all kinds of information has challenged settled law regarding intellectual property. Not the least of these disturbed customs is the physical distribution of intellectual work products: music, movies, books, even IT industry trade publications like eWEEK. eWEEK has to deal with these issues because nearly everything that appears in the print version of the newspaper also appears online. And we defend our copyrighted material.

IT executives, technology vendors and content producers are at a strategic crossroads in deciding how to reconcile the capabilities of the Internet with the protections of copyright laws. eWEEK readers should get involved in sorting out the direction of the legal battle between Verizon and RIAA.

After all, legally sanctioned "fishing expeditions," carried out by any Tom, Dick or recording association that claims a copyright infringement, will cause irreparable harm to business productivity: Corporations will be forced to isolate their networks from the outside world to defend against court clerk-issued search warrants.

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