Needed: Bright Line Rule On Mass Infringement Lawsuits To Stop Copyright Troll Forum Shopping

from the improper-joinder dept

The news that US Copyright Group has dropped yet another of its lawsuits isn't all that noteworthy at this point. This time, it was a lawsuit against people associated with 1,951 IP addresses, which USCG suggests were involved in unauthorized file sharing of the movie I Spit On Your Grave. This comes soon after USCG dropped their giant lawsuit concerning 23,238 John Does accused of sharing unauthorized copies of the movie The Expendables. What's interesting is the likely reason why: the two cases were given to the same judge.
As with the Expendables case, USCG doesnít give a reason why they chose to voluntarily dismiss the case. However, since this case was also appointed to Judge Robert Wilkins it doesnít seem far-fetched that they anticipated running into similar jurisdiction issues as they did in the Expendables case.
This follows a similar situation with another copyright troll, John Steele, who tried the same thing, after another case of his got assigned to a judge who scolded him for going on a "fishing expedition." Steele has since resorted to filing similar lawsuits in other jurisdictions.

The courts have had a few mixed rulings on this, with many, but certainly not all, rejecting the joining of thousands (or tens of thousands) of defendants for sharing the same content as being improper. However, a few judges have allowed the cases to "go forward," even though all the copyright trolls want is for subpoenas to go out so they can figure out who to send their "settlement" letters to.

There's a name for this filing and dropping of cases, with new filings in different districts: it's called forum shopping. And it's a sign of a problem.

With so many lawyers jumping into the copyright trolling game lately, using the same basic blueprint (if only they'd sue each other for infringement!), it would be nice if we could get a higher court to issue a bright line rule that said such a joining of totally unrelated parties is totally improper. That could cut off this whole shakedown game quickly. But until we get that, these copyright trolling operations will just continue forum shopping, hoping to find a judge who isn't hip to how they're just using the judicial system as a way to force people into paying money.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 7th, 2011 @ 2:11am

    Problem with the US system

    Although the devolved US court system does have some advantages the possiblity of forum shopping does seem to be a weakness.

    In the UK ACS law have been knocked on the head by the courts and it is game over - they have nowhere else to go and have had to give up. It seems a pity that this process will take longer in the US.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 2:28am

    Americans are in good hands, they will all be raped by the legal system.

    LOL TRDMC!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 7th, 2011 @ 2:43am

    The trollls will say

    Of course the trolls will say "How are they supposed to proceed - they've got to be able to 'defend their rights' somehow" and "surely it can't be extortion to take up on a legal right that you have" or "everything USCG are doing is quite legal- why are you complaining?" or some such.

    But of course the point is that, although each of the individual cases is quite legal and proper, that does not mean that the sum total of their actions is legal and proper. It is rather like stalking. A stalker will tell you that they have a perfect right to stand outside their victim's house and always be on the same bus in the morning and so on - but, although the individual actions are quite legal - the sum total of them is an abuse.

    In USCG 's case it is an abuse of the law.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 3:09am

    Re: The trollls will say

    Legal maybe, proper? far from it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 3:34am

    Pirates are like the BAE - Adaptiv invisible cloak technology, invisible to law enforcement :)

    The unfortunate thing is that others are not and they probably be the ones that get blamed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 7th, 2011 @ 3:39am

    Re: Re: The trollls will say

    Maybe not even legal - my point is that a large number of legal actions can sum to an illegal one.

     

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  7.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 7th, 2011 @ 3:54am

    Take a leaf out of the MPAA's book

    And get Robert Wilkins's judgements published as widely as possible!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 4:48am

    Re: Take a leaf out of the MPAA's book

    Also include Judge Bernard Zimmermanís On The Cheap, LLC vs Does 1-5011, that is a must read for everyone longing for a laugh at the expense of copyright trolls.

    http://torrentfreak.com/judge-decimates-bittorrent-lawsuit-with-common-sense-ruling-11090 7/

    I can't help but laugh right now.

     

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  9.  
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    NullOp, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 5:40am

    Infringement

    This country needs to pass legislation stating any business based solely on the practice of suing companies on supposed copyright infringement is, in fact, attempting to act as a law enforcement agency and, therefore, shall be deemed an illegal entity. Wouldn't that be something to be able to disarm the trolls!

    OMG - Obama Must Go!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 5:49am

    Forum shopping? More like Judge shopping, trying to stay away from a Judge who has made an unfavorable ruling. They don't want to keep hitting the same roadblock, as it could become a "standard" by which other cases are measured. It would be better to try in another jurisdiction, find one that doesn't have the same issues, thus discrediting the first ruling.

    In a system with multiple districts, there is always somewhere else to work from.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 7th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Re: Infringement

    his country needs to pass legislation stating any business based solely on the practice of suing companies on supposed copyright or patent infringement ....

    FTFY

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 7th, 2011 @ 9:09am

    ABOLISH IP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2011 @ 3:05pm

    Come on Johnny Steele, we need your commentary on this. Hiding somewhere?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Help me, Sep 21st, 2011 @ 8:00am

    I just received a settlement letter

    I just got one of these uscg settlement letters in the mail telling me to pay $2900 for an illegal download of "Familiar Strangers" movie. I have never downloaded or even heard of this movie. The letter has my name, address and ip address. What should I do? Should I just ignore it? Thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Jameson, Sep 22nd, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: I just received a settlement letter

    I'm also being sued by one of these dirtbags. After reading anything and everything available to me about this and similar lawsuits, I decided to just hold tight and say fuck you. I'm not certain, because I don't speak legalese, but I believe it was just dismissed, Hard Drive Productions v. Does 1 - 1000, CC# 1:10-cv-05606. From what I have taken from all this horseshit, is that these lawyers basically use the legal system for extortion. They file the lawsuits, knowing they will most likely be dismissed, in an effort to get the personal info behind your IP to threaten and scare you into paying them a ridiculous settlement. Do as you see fit for yourself, but I decided to say fuck you. Prove it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Help me, Sep 23rd, 2011 @ 8:10am

    Re: Re: I just received a settlement letter

    Right on. I guess the best thing to do is to not make contact with these assholes. You're right....fuck them! If they want to take me to court let them. I dont think they have proof anyway because I never got that shitty movie. Btw was your letter recently? I got mine on the 19th of Sept.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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