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Porn BitTorrent Lawsuits Run into Serious Problem - Lawsuits Must be Filed Individually
October 5, 2010
Thomas Mennecke
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You know, there's this funny issue called joinder - which in essence means that additional defendants can be added to a single complaint. This has been a hot button issue in the Far Cry and Steam Experiment lawsuits, where Judge Rosemary Collyer is currently pondering whether to order the US Copyright Group to file each lawsuit independently. Considering that the Far Cry lawsuit currently has over 4,000 defendants clinging to one complaint, a ruling in favor of the John Does could have a detrimental effect on the USCG's effort to create an alternative revenue stream.

Beside the USCG lawsuits, which mainly focuses on small, independent producers creating mediocre movies (yet wondering why they don't sell), there is another genre of file-sharing lawsuits against those supposedly sharing adult movies. Following the same playbook as ACS:Law, Gallant Macmillan, and the USCG, a law firm called Steele Law has filed nearly 1,400 lawsuits against suspected porn file-sharers. One of their clients is First Time Videos, LLC, and as luck would have it, they might be the first time losers.

In an order issued on October 1, Judge Ruben Castillo dismissed the case, without prejudice, due to misjoinder. Holy Moses - has precedent been set? Here's the ruling:

"MINUTE entry before Honorable Ruben Castillo:After a careful review of the case docket, the Court hereby dismisses the complaint without prejudice to a proper amended complaint which names individual defendants. Plaintiff's attorney is cautioned that there must be joint activity by similar defendants to name said defendants in one lawsuit.

Individual lawsuits against any defendant operating individually would be appropriate. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed with discovery [5] is granted. Plaintiff's counsel is authorized to proceed with expedited discovery to discover the identity of the appropriate defendants. Motion hearing set for 10/6/2010 is vacated."

Let's break down what this means. The case is being dismissed without prejudice - meaning that the complaint is still valid and can be brought up at a later time. Judge Castillo also granted the motion for discovery, which means the ISPs have to divulge their customer’s personal information – yet we’re happy to see the intense effort to counter this . However – the monumental portion of the ruling is that the defendants cannot be lumped together - if Steele Law wants to pursue this case they’ll have to confront the 500 defendants individually. This is potentially a serious blow to those looking to make money from alleged copyright infringement.

However, before you start chiming the victory bells just yet, consider the differences between First Time Videos, LLC vs. Does 1-500 and the rest of the BitTorrent lawsuits. First Time Video not only lumped 500 defendants together – they lumped many different titles together as well. Conversely, the Far Cry lawsuits consist of alleged unauthorized distribution of just one movie. There’s little doubt that this adds significant ammunition for those fighting the USCG, and may give Judge Collyer more to think about, but it’s tiny differences like this that could mean the difference between her ruling for or against the John Does. And Steele law could possibly combine several defendants sharing identical titles into one lawsuit. What is certain, however, is that things have just gotten a lot more expensive for Steele Law. This is most likely the case for many thousands of the other pornography related BitTorrent lawsuits too, considering they tended to lump dozens of titles into one lawsuit as well.


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