Last year, an adult movie producer filed suit against 670 individuals who it claimed had infringed copyright on an obscure title. Now the entire case, which was presented by lawyer Evan Stone, has been dismissed. The plaintiffs were scathing about the court-appointed EFF attorneys, describing them as defenders of piracy. The case was dismissed with prejudice, which means that each of the John Doe defendants are completely off the hook.
On 21st September 2010, a mass lawsuit was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The suit, which was filed by lawyer Evan Stone on behalf of Mick Haig Productions, targeted 670 BitTorrent users who allegedly shared an obscure adult movie titled Der Gute Onkel.
As revealed in our earlier article, the complaint stated that Mick Haig owns the copyright to the movie, but it was never officially registered with the Copyright Office. But as we will read, there were bigger, more terminal problems in store.
The court appointed counsel for the Does, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen, had argued that Mick Haig had wrongly sued hundreds of people in one case, in the wrong jurisdiction and were therefore not entitled to send subpoenas for the Does’ personal details.
In the face of this criticism, last week Mick Haig and Evan Stone dropped their case, but not without some extremely harsh words for the EFF, PC and the Court.
“Rather than choosing competent local counsel experienced in intellectual property law, the Court appointed a trio of attorneys renowned for defending internet piracy and renowned for their general disregard for intellectual property law,” Mike Haig said in their notice of dismissal.
Going on to complain about various processes, Mick Haig concludes:
“Now, four months after the initial filing of this case, with little chance of discovery in sight, Plaintiff feels it has lost any meaningful opportunity to pursue justice in this matter. As such, Plaintiff has notified all relevant internet service providers that this case is being dismissed and hereby notifies the Court of the same.”
In a statement the EFF noted that copyright holders have the right to protect their works, but not if they use unfair tactics.
“When adult film companies launch these cases, there is the added pressure of embarrassment associated with pornography, which can convince those ensnared in the suits to quickly pay what’s demanded of them, whether or not they have legitimate defenses. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the process is fair,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry.
“This dismissal is wonderful news for the 670 anonymous defendants in this case, but troubling questions remain about the behavior of Mick Haig Productions,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.
“Given the extremely invasive power of subpoenas, plaintiffs have a duty to ensure that subpoenas are not misused. EFF is committed to ensuring that litigants are held accountable for taking shortcuts around the due process rights of their opponents, especially in cases such as this one where the very act of obtaining someone’s identity could be improperly leveraged into pressure to settle a claim.”
Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, the Mick Haig cannot file cases against any of the 670 Does in this matter in the future, even in the correct jurisdiction.