Mass P2P Lawsuits: Names of Copyright Infringers Must Now Be Released

A Washington DC federal judge has changed the fate of P2P (Person to Person file sharing) lawyers, favoring them where mass file-sharing lawsuits are concerned.  The judge has let cases move forward and required ISPs to provide names of those involved to be released on schedule.

Common arguments for those opposing such lawsuits include the following reasons:

  • Defendants are “improperly joined” by not acting together breaking the law
  • People involved in the cases are outside the jurisdiction of the federal court where they are being sued
  • The availability of the First Amendment (Right to Anonymous speech)

Judge Beryl Howell of Washington DC rejected the three arguments above – at the moment – in favor of the P2P lawyers who filed the mass lawsuits.

The ruling combines three pending mass lawsuits.  The judge also ruled that it was acceptable for a multitude of unknown defendants to be sued noting that they are “logically related”.  The judge justifies that individual filing of such cases would cost too much as well as limit copyright holders in protecting their rights.  Furthermore, defendants can later on prove themselves to be separate from the rest, but that it would be easier to join them together at the beginning of the investigation process.

Jurisdiction is still vague, where geolocation only tells where these defendants might be.  Tools used to look them up are still inaccurate and whether personal jurisdiction would be the best way to go is still up for debate.  In the process of the lawsuits, defendants will be given a chance to file for counter motions if they are not within that jurisdiction.

In regard to the reasons why the three opposing arguments were dismissed, the judge ruled the First Amendment was a weak argument since there was only minimal “expressive activity” involved.  In favour of the copyright holders, they have good reasons why they want to seek for these violators.

Benefitting from this decision was the US Copyright group, who brought the lawsuits forward.  Although separate cases may later be required, as well as the huge amount involved in filing them apart from the time and effort that will be involved, the early stage of litigation was a good indication that despite that only a single judge so far has agreed for such cases to push through, the opportunity paves way for rights holders to seek for justice.