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Judge Has Had Enough of Copyright Trolls

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Have digital copyright holders learned nothing from the lessons of the RIAA's suits? Well, yes, they seem to have learned a few things. For example, why target when you can sweep -- and then target based on the sweep? And why defend your own copyright on your own turf when you can forum-shop to vigorously defend someone else's?

Yes, we've all got to make a living, but on Tuesday, Judge Gary Brown of the Eastern District of New York made that just a bit harder for two copyright trolls when he put the smack down on four mass suits against alleged infringers of porn movies. In his 26-page ruling, the judge also recommended all such mass suits get the judicial side-eye.

The defendants in each suit -- there are some 23 in the Eastern District alone, each filed by one of the same three plaintiffs -- allegedly downloaded porn from BitTorrent without, as is the practice in such matters, paying for it. Everyone who downloaded the same movie from the same torrent stream was cited as a numbered John Doe in the respective suit.

The plaintiffs, K-Beech in one suit and Malibu Media in the other three, wanted subpoenas to match their John Does' ISP addresses with actual names and street addresses. Why? So they could hit the defendants up individually for settlements of  "thousands of dollars," as John Doe No. 16 complained, in exchange for the Johns not having their names publicly connected with Gang Bang Virgins, Veronica Wet Orgasm, Maryjane Young Love, or Gangbanged.

The judge denied subpoenas for all but John Doe No. 1 in each suit, noting that, among other things, there was no way to prove the person paying for the Internet access was the one who had downloaded the file; that using the same BitTorrent stream didn't constitute enough of a link between defendants to justify a mass suit; and that by mass suing, the plaintiffs were dodging the usual $350-per-suit-filing fee, to the tune of $25,000 in fee avoidance.

The judge determined that "plaintiffs have employed abusive litigation tactics to extract settlements from John Doe defendants. Indeed, this may be the principal purpose of these actions." He also noted that K-Beech's lawyers had "already engaged in improper litigation tactics in this matter" and that it was "highly probable" that Malibu's would do the same if not cut off at the pass.  

Brown is hardly breaking new ground; he's one of a growing list of jurists who don't look fondly on these suits, including troll tracker Judge John A. Gibney of the Eastern District of Virginia, whom Brown quotes in his ruling.

Federal judges in Illinois, DC, and West Virginia, as well as state judges in Florida, have also ruled against the plaintiffs in these suits, sometimes at the behest of the ISPs being approached.
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