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 doesn?t give a reason why they chose to voluntarily dismiss the case. However, since this case was also appointed to Judge Robert Wilkins it doesn?t 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.