For Immediate Release
Rights Groups Ask Court to Block Movie Industry Subpoenas
ACLU, EFF and Public Citizen File Briefs Supporting Time Warner Effort to Protect User Anonymity
NEW YORK - Subpoenas seeking the names and contact
information of thousands of individual Internet users from their
respective Internet service providers (ISPs) violate the individual
users' rights to due process and anonymity, according to
friend-of-the-court briefs filed late last night by the American Civil
Liberties Union, the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, the Electronic
Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Citizen Litigation Group. The
briefs support Time Warner Cable's motion to quash or modify subpoenas
it received for information about thousands of users who allegedly
downloaded certain movies including from the Internet using the
BitTorrent file sharing application.
"Members of the movie industry have
the right to challenge alleged copyright infringement, but they must do
so in a way that upholds the law and individuals' due process rights,"
said Aden Fine, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and
Technology Project. "Lumping thousands of unconnected individuals into a
few cases in a court far from where they live, without providing them
adequate notice and a real opportunity to challenge the subpoenas, is
not that way."
The subpoenas were issued as part of
separate copyright infringement lawsuits filed by one counsel in the
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Very few - if any - of
the defendants, and none of the plaintiffs, live in the District.
According to the amicus briefs from the ACLU, EFF and Public Citizen,
the individual defendants have no connection to each other besides
simply being accused of downloading the same movies using the same
The amicus briefs argue that the
subpoenas should be quashed because the lawsuits improperly join
thousands of unrelated defendants into a single action and were filed in
a jurisdiction where few, if any, of the defendants reside. The briefs
also argue that the plaintiffs failed to show sufficiently that they had
reason to believe the individual defendants did anything wrong before
attempting to obtain their identifying information and failed to give
the individual defendants notice and an opportunity to challenge the
"Individuals have a presumptive right
to speak and view material on the Internet anonymously," said Arthur
Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the Nation's Capital. "If a party
to a lawsuit wants to find out who those anonymous individuals are, it
must make an adequate factual showing in a proper court, whether the
anonymous individual is accused of copyright infringement, defamation or
any other improper conduct. That has not been done here."
The briefs are available online at: www.aclu.org/free-speech-
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.