When the Supreme Court speaks, lots of people listen. A decision coming down from on high, triggers all the news organizations (and Fox "news") to roll out their legal analysts, along with their political tea leaf readers, so they can over-explain every possible aspect of the ruling. But sometimes the Court offers a major decision without attracting much attention at all and this week it was a doozy.
The recording industry may not agree, but the U.S. Supreme Court thinks personal privacy is far more important that music piracy.
On Tuesday, the high court refused to entertain an appeal of a unanimous 2003 decision by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals that held that copyright holders cannot force Internet providers to identify file sharers using a mere subpoena. Industry watchers see this as yet another blow that the recording industry has taken in its fight against online file sharing — a fight it is slowly losing.
If the RIAA [Recording Industry Association of America] had its way, according to Ms. Deutsch, the law would make it possible for anyone to walk into a courthouse and issue a subpoena against Internet providers, forcing them to provide names and other personal details of their subscribers on the basis of a simple allegation of file sharing.
The RIAA had been pushing to extend a provision of 1998’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which provided for the issue of subpoenas to identify alleged infringers, to file sharing. But with Tuesday’s decision, the RIAA’s struggle against file sharing grows murkier and more futile.
So by allowing the lower court’s ruling to stand, the Court has effectively ended the RIAA’s legal fishing expeditions. Now that they’ve been put on a leash, maybe the recording companies will spend their time and money on something more positive to discourage illegal downloads. Like offering a larger variety of music and lower prices. Probably not – but we can hope.