In the past two years, a specific type of copyright infringement case has proliferated across the country, and the firms filing them have become known as “copyright trolls.”
The pejorative has come as these firms troll so-called IP addresses that individual modems are assigned to access the web. They find IP addresses connected with downloads of their clients’ movies and then require Internet service providers to hand over customer data.
The first such cases were filed in Oregon over the past two months. Here’s how similar cases have played out in federal courts nationwide:
California: Judge Bernard Zimmerman of the Northern District of California tossed a suit in 2011 that named 5,011 defendants because, he said, their individual circumstances weren’t similar enough to be joined together. The plaintiff’s lawyers were allowed to proceed against one of the defendants.
“If I allow this matter to proceed with about 5,000 defendants,” Zimmerman wrote, “it will create a logistical nightmare with hundreds if not thousands of defendants filing different motions… each raising unique factual and legal issues that will have to be analyzed one at a time.”
Ohio: Judge James S. Gwin ruled last week that Voltage Pictures, which is the plaintiff in four Oregon cases, improperly linked 197 defendants in four cases. The judge said that the cases must be filed individually, each with its own filing fee.
In his order, Gwin including snippets from other court decisions:
“Courts have been troubled by what amounts to be a new business model employed by production companies ‘misusing the subpoena powers of the court, seeking the identities of the Doe defendants solely to facilitate demand letters and coerce settlement, rather than ultimately serve process and litigate the claims.'”
“It is in this environment where courts must take every caution to ensure that the keys to the doors of discovery are not blithely given to parties with other intentions.”
Oregon: In response to the case with 371 “Does” filed by lawyer Carl Crowell, a Salem mother wrote a letter explaining that her adult son had illegally downloaded “Maximum Conviction” from BitTorrent while at her home.
The son “said he used a blocker so no one else could download files from his computer. Enclosed is a money order for $12.99, the cost currently listed for this movie on Amazon.com.
“Please extend my apologies to Voltage Pictures for not paying more attention,” she wrote, “I now consider this issue resolved.”