Judge Halts Copyright Troll's Lawsuit Against A Now-Deceased Elderly Man With Dementia And An IP Address
from the stop-stop-he's-already-dead dept
Stories about copyright trolls issuing questionable settlement demands and lawsuits using laughably flimsy evidence with no regard to mitigating circumstances are somewhat common around here. The most egregious cases range from trolls sending threat letters to the elderly to flat out suing the innocent. This sort of thing is essentially inherent in a business model that closely apes an extortion ring, and here’s another quintessential example of that.
It all started when Venice PI sued a man for being part of a torrent swarm offering the movie Once Upon a Time in Venice. The judge in the case has put the proceedings on hold, noting rather harshly that Venice PI’s evidence sucks, and that the man in question had severe enough dementia that his family says he couldn’t even have operated a computer as described in the lawsuit and, at age 91, has died.
The man’s wife informed a federal court in Seattle that he passed away recently, at the respectable age of 91. While age doesn’t prove innocence, the widow also mentioned that her husband suffered from dementia and was both mentally and physically incapable of operating a computer at the time of the alleged offense.
These circumstances raised doubt with US District Court Judge Thomas Zilly, who brought them up in a recent order (citations omitted).
“In two different cases, plaintiff sued the same, now deceased, defendant, namely Wilbur Miller. Mr. Miller’s widow submitted a declaration indicating that, for about five years prior to his death at the age of 91, Mr. Miller suffered from dementia and was both mentally and physically incapable of operating a computer.”
Oops. Still, the condition of the copyright troll’s victim wasn’t the topic which received Judy Zilly’s harshest criticism. That distinction goes to the quality and quantity of evidence Venice PI produced in its lawsuit. The Judge notes that this evidence amounts essentially to nothing more than an IP address. He then goes on to suggest that any tracking of IP addresses that pointed to Mr. Miller being a torrent-y type of guy should have its accuracy immediately questioned. Beyond that, the judge indicated that Venice PI can’t use that IP address to try to find, you know, actual evidence.
Moreover, plaintiff may not, based solely on IP addresses, launch a fishing expedition aimed at coercing individuals into either admitting to copyright infringement or pointing a finger at family members, friends, tenants, or neighbors.
To that end, lawyers for Venice PI are barred from having any contact with Miller’s family or any other unnamed defendant in this case. In addition, Zilly is demanding any other evidence the plaintiff’s can produce — likely none –, as well as information on how IP addresses in bittorrent swarms might be spoofed. The judge goes on to say that if no further evidence can be presented, the claims will be dismissed with prejudice.
It’s simply great to see a court get this so correct in a copyright troll case. Too often trolls are allowed to skate by in presenting evidence that isn’t evidence at all, with no ground given to the sort of mitigating testimony offered by Miller’s widow. That Venice IP hasn’t dismissed their case against the now-deceased man is an added stain on its trollish soul.