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Entertainment and Sports Law Internet Law Litigation

How to Obtain Subpoenas for Identifying ISP Users

This article focuses on a recent federal court decision, to explain how the well-developed law provides plaintiffs asserting a wide range of claims with the ability to proceed while protecting ISPs and, correspondingly, how it ultimately means that defendants who otherwise could remain anonymous may have to defend themselves in court.


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Federal law generally prohibits Internet service providers (ISPs), i.e., “cable operators,” from disclosing personally identifiable information concerning a subscriber without the prior written or electronic consent of the subscriber. Moreover, under the law, ISPs must “take such actions as are necessary” to prevent unauthorized access to a subscriber’s personally identifiable information by a person other than the subscriber or the cable operator. See, 47 U.S.C. §551(c)(1). An ISP, however, may disclose a subscriber’s personally identifiable information in a number of specific circumstances, including pursuant to a court order authorizing the disclosure. See, 47 U.S.C. §551(c)(2)(B).

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