A New Jersey judge has quashed nearly a thousand of subpoenas that were requested in a BitTorrent suit involving “Dark Adrenaline”, the most recent album by the Italian band LACUNA COIL, ruling that the case improperly joins mass defendants together.
U.S. District Judge Faith S. Hochberg threw out all of the defendants with the exception of one John Doe for the claim. As a result, 943 unnamed defendants have been pared from suit filed by a New Jersey attorney on behalf of Century Media Records.
Hochberg, in her October 10 ruling, said that the case appeared to be a misjoinder, finding that “there must be a connection between defendants beyond the copyrighted work and method of distribution, namely that defendants were involved in the same transaction with the same downloader at the same time.”
In the case, Hochberg said that she would sever all Doe defendants except the first Doe of the suit “without prejudice,” permitting the plaintiff to bring the claim again in conformity with the rules set forth by the judge.
In a typical illegal-downloading case, a lawyer hires a company to search for Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with the use of file-sharing software such as BitTorrent. Once the IP addresses have been harvested, the lawyer’s clients file suit naming defendants as John Doe. They then seek to have mass subpoenas issued for the Internet providers associated with the harvested IP addresses in order to obtain the name and address of the owner of the IP address on the date it was harvested. Once identified, an Internet account holder typically faces the prospect of settling the case for a few thousand dollars or hiring a lawyer to fight the charges.
“It’s tough. If you get one of these letters you’ve been put in a difficult and unfair spot,” said Rebecca Jeschke, a spokeswoman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil-liberties group, referring to the notices that go out once a John Doe has been identified.
“In many of these situations,” she added, “the goal doesn’t seem to be to fight infringement; it seems to be to get settlements. That’s where the money-making is.”
Nuclear Blast Records made headlines earlier in the year when it filed a lawsuit against 80 users of the BitTorrent network over illegal music downloads of an album by Oakland, California-based extreme metallers ALL SHALL PERISH. The lawsuit was not only brought without the band’s permission, but also without their knowledge.
After members of ALL SHALL PERISH made it clear that they did not want to participate in the legal proceedings, Nuclear Blast voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice.
In December 2008, the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA) abandoned its litigation campaign against file sharers after having targeted some 18,000 individuals, usually naming dozens or hundreds of defendants per suit.
Most of the defendants settled out of court for a few thousand dollars rather than risk Copyright Act fines of up to $150,000 per purloined music track.