Org presses judge on Verizon file-swapper

NEW YORK — The record business has fired back in its ongoing battle with Net-access provider Verizon over the identities of copyright offenders on its network, asking a judge not to stay a subpoena ordering Verizon to reveal the name and address of a high-volume file-swapper.

In a press conference Friday, the Recording Industry Assn. of America also blasted the telecom giant for taking the fight into the press and called into question the company’s stated concern that the privacy rights of users may be at risk if the subpoena is enforced.

“In private conversations with the RIAA, Verizon has made it very clear that this isn’t a privacy issue,” said the trade org’s senior VP for business and legal affairs, Matthew Oppenheim. “They’re concerned about the issue of burden; they don’t want to be subjected to the expense of responding to subpoenas.”

Verizon, which filed the stay and an appeal of the original subpoena Jan. 30, declined to comment on the RIAA’s filing and comments Friday.

Oppenheim said the org’s most recent filing is needed because if the stay is granted, Verizon could continue to conceal the name of the user for the duration of its appeal — which the exec estimated could take up to a year to complete.

Moreover, the stay would set a precedent that could be used against additional subpoenas filed against any of the thousands of file-sharing users said to be on Verizon’s network.

Oppenheim called Verizon’s effort to set such a precedent a “classic bait-and-switch.” During the drafting of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (which authorized the subpoena), he said, Verizon and other telecom companies asked that copyright owners go after the individual infringers, rather than the networks that provide them with online access.

Now, they’re making it difficult for labels to obtain the information they need to deal with infringers, Oppenheim added.

“They’re seeking to get the benefit of certain measures” in the DMCA, he said, “without having to deal with the burdens.”

District of Columbia Judge John D. Bates will hold a hearing Thursday morning to assess the dueling claims.

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