As many of our readers may be aware, certain misguided individuals have been downloading copyrighted music without the permission of (read: without paying) the copyright owners. You know who you are. However, because these scofflaws have been hiding behind anonymous IP addresses, their identities were not known to the offended copyright owners – until now. (Arista Records v. Doe 3)
Arista sued 16 individuals, identified only by their IP addresses, who had been detected making unauthorized downloads or distributing recordings via an online file-sharing network. Arista then issued a subpoena to the individuals’ internet service providers, seeking their identity. One of these individuals – called Doe 3 for purposes of the litigation – moved (anonymously, of course) to quash the subpoena, arguing that such identification would violate his/her (?) First Amendment rights. Well, the Court Of Appeals For The Second Circuit disagreed, holding that “[t]he First Amendment does not … provide a license for copyright infringement.”
You folks who have been making free with the music may wish to know that previous offenders have been subject to judgments of $80K per song.
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: There is no such thing as anonymity anymore – except possibly in Vegas. Don’t do anything you’re not prepared to answer for.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not in favor of copyright infringement, and for the most part I disapprove of royalty-free use of others' work. However, the record labels have not done themselves any favors by insisting on continuing to sue infringers. This practice has been terrible for the major labels' PR, and it hasn't stopped illegal file-sharing. The Obama administration's new IP Enforcement Plan could ... Maybe the labels should have punted to the feds from the beginning. Or maybe the labels need to accept the fact that most consumers now expect to get music for free, and figure out other ways to make profits.