In another set-back for ISP subscribers targeted in the ongoing Torrent troll campaign, U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell recently entered multiple lengthy opinions denying over 75 motions to quash subpoenas that had been issued in three prominent mass copyright suits, motions for dismissal, and other challenges to the subpoena process employed in the case.
To review, these subpoenas are a critical part of the strategy employed by copyright plaintiffs in these cases, as they allow their lawyers to obtain the name and address of an ISP subscriber whose internet account is allegedly associated with infringing activity remotely detected by the plaintiff’s online investigation. Once the court authorizes a subpoena, the ISP who receives it is then under a legal obligation to disclose the information, absent a further court order or direction from the requesting party.
Since the emergence of the mass BitTorrent lawsuits approximately one year ago, privacy-rights advocates and other opponents of the troll lawsuits have urged the filing of motions to quash the subpoenas and other challenges to the subpoena process as a means to preserve individual anonymity, and hopefully, to derail these schemes in a more fundamental way.
Unfortunately, Judge Howell, in three very similar opinions rendered on May 12 in Voltage Pictures, LLC v. Does 1-5,000, No. 1:10-cv-00873-BAH, Call Of The Wild Movie, LLC v. Does 1-331, No. 1:10-cv-00455-BAH, and Maverick Entertainment Group v. Does 1-2,115, No. 1:10-cv-00569-BAH, laid waste to many of the thoughtful and well-intentioned arguments raised by the challengers. These arguments included challenges on the basis of improper joinder of numerous Doe parties, and the court’s lack of personal jurisdiction over the Does. With specific regard to the jurisdictional arguments, in the Maverick opinion the court said:
“To be clear, at this stage in the proceedings, the plaintiff is engaged in discovery to identify the proper defendants to be named in this lawsuit, including whether the exercise of jurisdiction over each potential defendant is proper. If and when the putative defendants are ultimately named in this lawsuit, the defendants will have the opportunity to file appropriate motions challenging the Court’s jurisdiction, and the Court will be able to evaluate personal jurisdiction defenses and consider dismissal. Until that time, however, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(2) is inappropriate.”
These opinions follow an even more thorough March 22 decision from Judge Howell addressing, and rejecting, related arguments by the EFF and the ACLU.
These discouraging decisions suggest that the many individuals targeted in these troll schemes should re-consider whether filing motions to quash and other subpoena challenges is really the most effective way to respond to the threats against them.