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Court rules in favor of piracy whistleblower’s anonymity

When someone comes forward to expose what they view as wrongdoing, they may face consequences for doing so. For example, they might lose their current job. Correspondingly, many who come forward about alleged misdoing by a company seek to remain anonymous in whistleblower protection cases.

One such case involved a lawsuit filed by Universal Music Group against Grooveshark owners Escape Media. UMG claimed Grooveshark had infringed upon copyrights held by UMG by storing and distributing music tracks covered by those copyrights. The Digital Music News site published a high-profile article about the case.

That article contained claims from a member of a rock band that Grooveshank had hosted the band’s music illegally and had refused to take the music down when asked. One comment on the article was from “Visitor”, a person claiming he or she was an employee of Escape Media. He claimed that he had received direct orders to upload music at Grooveshank, and that the company wouldn’t remove infringing content.

Escape Media sought to learn the identity of “Visitor”. Digital Media News objected, saying giving the individual’s identity wouldn’t affect would infringe on the First Amendment rights of DMN and “Visitor”.

At first, a court ordered DMN to hand over the identity information on their servers. However, the Court of Appeal of the State of California overruled that, letting “Visitor” remain anonymous. The court said “Visitor” had a right of privacy that outweighed Escape Media’s interest in “Visitor”‘s identity.

This case shows how complex whistleblower protection can be. Often, a person coming forward with information anonymously will seek to protect their identity, while the company the information is about will seek to expose the person’s identity. Those involved in whistleblower protection cases can benefit from the advice of an attorney about how to navigate the issues involved.

Source: Torrent Freak, “Piracy ‘Whistleblower’ to Remain Anonymous, Court Rules” Andy, May. 18, 2014

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