Verizon Succesfully Defends Privacy of Alleged BitTorrent Pirates

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Internet provider Verizon has successfully defended the privacy of several subscribers who were accused of sharing copyrighted material on BitTorrent. The ISP refused to comply with a court-ordered subpoena obtained by book publisher John Wiley and Sons in one of their mass-BitTorrent lawsuits. Initially, Wiley responded to this move by asking the court to compel Verizon to cooperate, but this request and the subpoenas have now been withdrawn.

verizonThose who download and share copyrighted files through BitTorrent risk being monitored for various reasons. In the United States, those can also include legal action.

In recent years more than a quarter million alleged BitTorrent users have been sued in federal courts. One of the copyright holders participating in this activity is book publisher John Wiley & Sons, who are famous for their “For Dummies” series.

Wiley and others file mass-lawsuits against John Does who are only known by their IP-address. They then request a subpoena from the court to obtain the subscriber info connected to the IP-address, so they can contact the person in question with a request to settle the case in return for a sum of money.

A lucrative business, which can bring in millions of dollars, but also one that has been criticized heavily.

Earlier this month we reported that Verizon had refused to comply with a subpoena that was issued by a New York federal court. Among other reasons, the Internet provider doubted whether the subpoena would lead to the discovery of “relevant information.” In other words, Verizon suggested that the person who pays for the account might not be the infringer. A valid point, especially since another New York judge stated recently that an IP-address does not identify a person, only a connection.

Verizon also refused to hand over information in order to protect the privacy of its subscribers, which they feel is at stake in these ongoing mass-BitTorrent lawsuits. The company asserted that Wiley is seeking “information that is protected from disclosure by third parties’ rights of privacy and protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

In addition, Verizon noted that the book publisher is demanding the information for improper purposes, namely “to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.”

As expected, Wiley didn’t agree with the objections outlined above and asked the court to compel Verizon to comply with the subpoena. However, after a conference call between Wiley’s lawyer and the judge, this request was dropped. And that was not all. A recent letter to the court also reveals that Wiley has withdrawn the subpoenas it sent to Verizon.

“Given the telephone conference with Your Honor on May 14, 2012, we withdraw our subpoenas to Verizon as well as our motion to compel Verizon to respond to those subpoenas,” the letter reads.

Unfortunately, no further details are being made public, but it appears that Verizon successfully defended the privacy of the accused BitTorrent users. The above is great news for the many Verizon users who may end up in a similar position in the future. However, Verizon doesn’t seem to protest the subpoenas in all cases. In fact, earlier this month the company made a huge mistake as it handed over personal details of subscribers before it was allowed to.

That said, the ISP sees more value in a system where users are warned and educated, as opposed to “harassed.” Verizon confirmed this stance last week when the company informed TorrentFreak that they see the “six-strikes” warning model as the right solution for the piracy problem.

“We believe this program offers the best approach to the problem of illegal file sharing and, importantly, is one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers. It also provides a mechanism for helping people to find many great sources of legal content,” Verizon told us.

The “six strikes” piracy warning scheme is expected to be implemented later this year. This doesn’t mean that the mass-lawsuits will stop entirely, but it is apparent that Verizon does not intend to cooperate with these practices without putting up a fight.


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