In a pleasant and thoughtful opinion, United States District Court Judge Larry Burns has judiciously “thrown the bums out,” of San Diego’s federal Courthouse today.
Faced with the “interesting” question of “whether members of a BitTorrent ‘swarm’ who share and download copyrighted pornography can be joined as defendants and sued for copyright infringement together,” the court said “Good-bye John Does 1 through infinity; hello individual lawsuits and thousands of dollars in filing fees for the plaintiff who sues the now numerous freestanding Does.”
While nowhere near as harsh as it might well have, in all fairness been, Judge Burns’ opinion – following the lead of his colleague on the bench, Judge Huff, and her “thoughtful decision” in Case No. 12-CV-1436, Doc. No. 23 (S.D. Cal Nov. 8, 2012) – came down on the side of “fundamental fairness.”
These so called mass-copyright cases across the country are beyond a nuisance to the legal system. They are a bad example – of legality run amok, of a shakedown, of a business model where profit is made, not by producing something useful to people in society, but by devising a way to extract money from one person’s pocket and putting it into another. Scams impersonating an actual violated right.
Over the past couple of years “copyright trolls” have filed thousands of lawsuits against people alleged to have downloaded pornographic videos.
Even before a lawsuit is ever served, courts have been obliging plaintiffs requests for subpoenas issued to Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, etc., [the internet service provider, ISP] for the name, address, phone number and email address, of the internet subscriber.
Next thing you know the cable company is sending you, the subscriber, a letter telling you that it has been ordered by a federal Court to release your personal information to some company you’ve never heard of, unless you get a court order to prevent the release of information.
If there’s no court order telling the ISP to not release the information to the company you’ve never heard of, the company gets your information and shortly thereafter, you get a letter claiming you downloaded one or more videos with titles that will make your eyes pop. The letter will also let you know that this can all be taken care of and never mentioned again, for a couple of thousand dollars.
Hmmmmm. The shakedown aside, the issue of the technological invasion of privacy is huge, and Courts are at the forefront of this evolving area because they are the ones who are either chipping away at or protecting our fundamental right to privacy in the parallel — digital and physical –universes we live in these days.
So on another and very important level, the District Court opinions in these cases, and Judge Burns’ recent opinion, arising in the narrow and decidedly unsexy context of early discovery in federal litigation, are actually the battleground of an intense internet privacy proxy war, where the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy is being assaulted by a foolish belief that technological advances necessarily mean creating exceptions to and accepting compromises of an individual’s right to privacy.
This opinion from the Southern District of California in legal speak, says that mere “allegations of swarm joinder are alone insufficient for joinder.” In plain English the decision says, enough is enough on several fronts.