June 18, 2003
Dear Chairman McCain:
The undersigned organizations would like to express our support for the consumer privacy protection amendment being offered by Senator Brownback.
Illustrative of the critical importance of rebalancing and refining the law in these areas is the recent decision by a Federal court to compel Verizon to provide the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) with the name, address, and telephone number of its customers, based on an uncorroborated allegation that the customer had infringed the copyrights of RIAA members. The court accepted the RIAA's contention that Section 512(h) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) enables any copyright owner to submit a one-page form with an IP address to a district court clerk, and obtain - without any judicial supervision or lawsuit having been filed - a subpoena directing an ISP to turn over identifying information about their subscribers.
Clearly, the process sanctioned by this Federal court raises very serious concerns regarding the privacy rights, safety, and security of Internet users. Since the court has denied a stay of its order to divulge the customer information, we expect this case to be followed by a flood of requests by content owners for subscriber information. Therefore, we believe it is critical for swift action to clarify Section 512(h), to make clear that it was intended to apply only in situations in which the infringing content resides on the ISP's server and not in cases when the ISP serves as a "mere conduit" for access to the Internet and transmission of the allegedly infringing information.
Finally, the undersigned wish to make clear that our support for the consumer privacy protection amendment in no way diminishes our strong support for the other amendments being offered by Senator Brownback today or for his draft bill yet to be introduced.
We appreciate the tremendous work that you have dedicated to this and other related issues. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.
Alliance for Public Technology
American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Citizens for a Sound Economy
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Computer & Communications Industry Association
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontiers Georgia
SBC Internet Services
Telecommunications Research and Action Center
United States Internet Industry Association