A federal appeals court ruled today that the RIAA has no authority to compel Internet service providers to turn over the identities of their subscribers who use peer-to-peer file-sharing services and

A federal appeals court ruled today that the RIAA has no authority to compel Internet service providers to turn over the identities of their subscribers who use peer-to-peer file-sharing services and are suspected by the trade group of infringing copyrights.

The decision by the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia sides with Verizon, which challenged a January District Court ruling in favor of the RIAA (Bulletin, Jan. 22).

The ruling stops in its tracks the RIAA's 6-month-old program to halt illegal file sharing by using a so-called information subpoena law. The trade group had subpoenaed ISPs to turn over the identities of subscribers. The RIAA has so far sued more than 382 individuals whose ISPs have forwarded identification information.

The RIAA went after the identities of infringers based on provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). However, the court today ruled that the DMCA "betrays no awareness whatsoever that Internet users might be able to exchange files containing copyrighted works."

While the court says it sympathizes with the music industry's plight, it ruled that the RIAA's argument that ISPs are liable as "mere conduits" to disclose the identities of its subscribers "borders upon the silly." It also says that only Congress can fix "the loophole in Congress' effort to prevent copyright infringment on the Internet."

The RIAA was not available for comment at deadline.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print