Judge Beryl Howell used to work for the RIAA as a lobbyist. Or perhaps she still does. How else to explain her totally bizarre courtroom appearance in a copyright troll lawsuit -- where ISPs are arguing that they shouldn't have to turn over their customer data to discredited, laughable copyright troll John Steele, who can't get a break in any of the many other courtrooms where he's trying the stunt.
Mike Masnick has a highlight reel. The tl;dr is that Howell thinks that ISPs should bear responsibility for figuring out how to stop piracy on their networks (in the same breath in which she admits that the law says the opposite), and because they haven't taken this step, their customers have no right to privacy. Then she cites a GAO report on piracy (which actually says that all the RIAA's and MPAA's piracy numbers are total bullshit) and says it proves that piracy is a problem.
But apparently copyright trolls have found a friend in Judge Howell, who not only is welcoming them with open arms, but seems to be using these trolling cases to further the goals of her former employer. She's released her decision on the motion to quash the subpoenas, and it's basically a 42-page screed on the evils of infringement and how ISPs should be responsible for stopping piracy (much of which has absolutely nothing to do with the case at all). The only nod towards the other side seems to be a weak acknowledgement that "the Court recognizes that other Judges on this Court have reached different conclusions with respect to the legal questions posed by the ISPs" and thus she's agreed to stay her decision until the appeals court weighs in.
But she makes sure to get her arguments in for the appeals court to read, and it certainly feels like she reverted back to "lobbyist" mode, rather than "impartial judge."
She kicks off the polemic with a grand history of the DMCA, and how the task force that was created to write the DMCA originally wanted to pin liability on ISPs for actions done by their users. And while she admits that eventually the DMCA did include such liability protection, it seems clear she would have preferred it the other way. She then highlights the important court decisions from a decade ago, against the RIAA and in favor of Verizon and Charter, that ruled that the RIAA could not demand ISPs identify users without actually filing a lawsuit against them first. This, of course, was a basic recognition of basic privacy rights, and the fact that if you are going to expose someone's private info, you ought to at least file a lawsuit against them first. But, in the world of Judge Howell, apparently this was a bad decision. She approvingly cites the dissent in one of the key cases, claiming this somehow "unraveled" the balance struck in the DMCA. Nothing, of course, is further from the truth. That's a total rewrite of reality.
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