D.C. court protects confidentiality in piracy reports

A defense contractor wanted to know who accused it of software piracy

A judge in Washington has struck down a defense contractor's efforts to find out the name of a person who reported it for alleged software piracy.

Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia rejected a subpoena seeking the identity of a person who reported Arlington, Va.-based Solers Inc. for alleged software piracy in 2005. Solers had filed a defamation claim against the unidentified informant and had subpoenaed the name from Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), an antipiracy trade group the informant contacted about the alleged piracy.

When SIIA contacted Solers about the allegation, the company denied wrongdoing. The association said that it did not pursue a claim against Solers and did not determine that the company had engaged in software piracy.

A Solers representative didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling. Solers develops software and provides several services to customers, including network integration and deployment and engineering analysis of sensor systems.

Still, SIIA applauded the ruling, which was made public today. Blackburne-Rigsby's decision represents the first time a District of Columbia court has denied a subpoena seeking the identity of an anonymous informant, SIIA said.

After SIIA chose not to pursue a piracy case against Solers, the report resulted in little harm to the company, the judge wrote in her ruling. In addition, Solers took few steps to find out the name of the informant by means other than the subpoena, she said.

The trade group had argued that the informant's freedom of speech outweighed Solers' interest in getting the name.

"SIIA's interests in protecting the identity of those who report piracy outweigh the interests of those who have been reported," Keith Kupferschmid, SIIA's vice president for intellectual property policy and enforcement, said in a statement.

SIIA allows informants to report suspected software piracy through a Web-based form. When the trade group believes a report has merit, it pursues claims on behalf of its members.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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