A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC

Eastern District Tennessee Severs BitTorrent Lawsuit

BitTorrent Swarm ≠ “Transaction or Occurrence”

I used to blog about BitTorrent lawsuits quite a bit, but dropped that in favor of folks who blogged about them much more comprehensively. But there was one BitTorrent lawsuit that I’ve been following pretty carefully because it’s in Tennessee: Dragon Quest Productions, LLC v. Does 1-100, Case No. 3:12-cv-597. The judge* in that case has just severed the case from one case with 100 defendants, to 100 cases with one defendant each. And that’s pretty significant.

* I’m linking to the magistrate’s “Report and Recommendation,” but the judge accepted it in full.

A quick primer about BitTorrent lawsuits. Usually, the plaintiff is the owner of the copyright in either (a) a pornographic film, or (b) a non-pornographic film that didn’t do so well at the box office.* Dragon Quest LLC is definitely in the latter category, its movie, Age of Dragons, having bombed at the box office, despite somehow starring Danny Glover. In either case, the idea is to settle with as many defendants as possible for what lawyers call “nuisance value,” the amount the defendant is willing to pay to avoid the expense and hassle of a lawsuit**. Since the defendants are ordinary…

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Swarming the Defense: BitTorrent, Copyright and an Obscure Procedural Doctrine

Unappreciated Joinder Is Playing a Decisive Role in BitTorrent Cases

Last time, I said that the real action in these BitTorrent cases (including the one we’re discussing, In Re BitTorrent Adult Film) is “joinder,” where multiple parties are placed on the same side of the “V” in a court case—in the BitTorrent cases, sometimes hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of parties are placed on the defendants’ side of the “V.” A plaintiff can try to “join” as many defendants as it wants, but courts have the power to split the defendants off into their own cases, a process known as “severance.”

It’s a relatively dull topic*, but it’s proving pivotal in the BitTorrent cases. Cases in which the defendants are severed are almost never re-filed.** At first, this might seem strange. The cases are not dismissed permanently. The plaintiffs just need to re-file against the defendants as separate, individual cases. And pay the $350 filing fee for each case.

* Which is fine with me because I’m a HUGE civil procedure nerd.

** Based on my own observations and anecdotal evidence. I’m not sure if anyone has been tracking all of these cases.

All for 10,000, 10,000 for…

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In re BitTorrent Adult Film: Entertaining AND Educational!

Dissecting a Remarkable Ruling

* The blog title is a reference to this Order of the Stick comic. (It’s safe for work, so long as you don’t read it out loud.)

Last time we surveyed the forces that lead to this recent extraordinary magistrate’s opinion. It was handed down May 1, but already it’s become notorious for its almost gleeful taking down of the four porn-industry rights-holding plaintiffs. The key is to read the snerk-inducing footnotes. Highlights include these gems:

Footnote 7, in which the concept of “moral high ground” is discussed:
Plaintiff K-Beech’s rambling motion papers often lapse into the farcical. In its papers, counsel for K-Beech equate its difficulties with alleged piracy of its adult films with those faced by the producers of the Harry Potter books, Beatles songs and Microsoft software, and compare its efforts to collect from alleged infringers of its rights to the efforts of the FBI to combat child pornography. In an ironic turn, the purveyors of such works as Gang Bang Virgins, explain how its efforts in this matter will help empower parents to prevent minors from watching “movies that are not age appropriate” by ensuring that viewers must pay for plaintiffs products, and…

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Are Pornographers Ruining it for Everyone? Identifying and Outing Anonymous Online Copyright Infringers

Judges: Courts Aren’t Litigation Clearinghouses

Last summer, I started to blog about mass-defendant bittorrent cases pending in Washington, D.C., some of which involved over 10,000 anonymous defendants. Since the plaintiffs didn’t know who the defendants were, but they did know to IP address to which a bittorrent was sent, they would sue the defendants as “John Doe,” then ask the court for permission to send subpoenas to the defendants’ internet service providers. The subpoenas would ask for the contact information of the subscriber who was assigned that particular IP address at that particular time.* In theory, the subscriber would be your defendant, or at least someone who knew the real defendant (e.g., a family member).

* Since most consumers are dynamically assigned an IP address by their ISP for each internet session, and that IP address will likely change from session to session, you need to know not only the IP address but also the exact time the IP address was being used.

Recall that the first hurdle that the plaintiff must clear is a request for early discovery. Normally, discovery in federal court can’t start until there’s been a conference among the parties’ lawyers, which is a bit of…

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Rick to Present at The Internet & the Law 2011

Rick will be presenting at The Internet & the Law 2011, which takes place all day Friday, December 30, at the Nashville School of Law. The tuition is $280, and it’s good for 5 hours of General CLE credit, plus 1 hour of Dual CLE credit. Rick will be presenting on two topics: (1) “Internet 101”: Defining the Internet and its Legal Environment; and (2) Constitutional Issues Arising out of the Internet. Rick hopes to see you there!…

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