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Millions of people download copyrighted songs and even movies from the Internet with little fear of being caught. That’s about to change.
“[The music industry is] starting to move down the food chain,” says Lawrence Hertz, a partner at New York law firm Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein and Wood, and a specialist in online law.
He predicts that music publishers and other content owners will soon use 1998′s Digital Millennium Copyright Act much more aggressively–prosecuting not only companies like Napster but also individuals who download copyrighted content–and that they will start with the biggest users of peer-to-peer networks.
The new strategy became evident last year when the Recording Industry Association of America served Verizon with a subpoena demanding that the service provider disclose the identity of a user who uploaded more than 600 songs while connected to the company’s Internet service.
Verizon protested, but recently a U.S. district court judge ruled in favor of the RIAA and ordered Verizon to reveal the user’s identity.
Verizon asked for a stay of the judge’s order; at press time this was still pending, but approval seemed unlikely.
“If this ruling stands, consumers will be caught in a digital dragnet,” says John Thorne, Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel. If the stay is denied, Verizon says it will seek a stay at the appeals court level.