U.S. Judge Blocks Porn BitTorrent Suits Filed in W. Va.

U.S. Judge Blocks Porn BitTorrent Suits Filed in W. Va. – XBIZ.com

By Rhett Pardon
Friday, Dec 17, 2010 Text size:

MARTINSBURG, Va. — A federal judge has quashed thousands of subpoenas that were requested in seven porn BitTorrent suits, ruling that the cases improperly join mass defendants together.

U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey, in each of the orders, threw out all of the defendants with the exception of one John Doe for each claim. As a result, 5,462 unnamed defendants have been pared from suits filed by Combat Zone, Elegant Angel, Third World Media and West Coast Productions.

Bailey, in his ruling, said that the cases reeked of misjoinder, finding that it is an ‘ undeniable fact that each defendant will also likely have a different defense.’

In each of the cases, Bailey said that he would sever all Doe defendants except the first Doe of each suit. He also said that because so many ISPs were identified with each suit, ‘[allegations making] the propriety of joinder even more tenuous.’

Bailey also said that if plaintiffs’ counsel want to proceed they can do so by filing fees for each of the amended complaints, which would be assigned separate civil action numbers, but only if the defendants are located in West Virginia, where the cases were filed.

In the seven cases, Time Warner Cable moved to quash subpoenas seeking the identities of accused filed sharers.

Kenneth Ford of the Adult Copyright Co., which filed the suits, did not immediately respond to XBIZ for comment.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed amicus briefs in the cases, lauded the judge’s ruling, calling it a ‘big victory in the fight against copyright trolls.’

The EFF said that the studios in the seven suits were ‘abusing the law in an attempt to pressure settlements.’

‘In these cases — as in many others across the country — the owners of the adult movies filed mass lawsuits based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lumped hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live,’ the EFF said in a statement.

‘The motivation behind these cases appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims.’

The West Virginia order comes on the heels of a ruling by a judge in the District of Columbia earlier this month that dismissed hundreds of individuals from across the country named in the U.S. Copyright Group’s campaign due to lack of personal jurisdiction in Washington, D.C.

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