The RIAA may have just hired the former head of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF) to continue to aggressively attack music piracy but today consumer’s rights to privacy were protected bya federal appeals court who struck down a ruling ordering internet service providers (ISPs) to identify users sharing files on the internet. Written by Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg for a three-judgepanel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the decision was a legal win for Verizon and other Internet service providers.

A lower court had ruled that Verizon had to comply with a subpoena from the RIAA, seeking the identity of a subscriber to its Internet service who was downloading files via peer-to-peer services likethe Gnutella network.

Now that consumers have legal options for downloading music, millions have flocked to the new Napster, Apple’s iTunes and other sites that charge per download. Congress is reportedly going to dealwith the peer-to-peer file sharing on networks like Gnutella with new legislation in 2004. The court was sympathetic to the RIAA’s situation however they did not decide to allow the RIAA to getaccess to user’s web activity.