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.

Filed Under: copyright, i spit on your grave, jurisdiction, jurisdiction shopping
Companies: us copyright group

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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 7 Sep 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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