Just as you thought you’ve seen it all, the ever continuing mass-BitTorrent lawsuits in the U.S. bring yet another surprise.
In February the makers of the animated movie Zambezia, featuring Samuel L. Jackson as voice actor, filed a dozen lawsuits at a federal court in Washington. At first glance this is nothing new, but careful observers noticed something odd in the lists of IP-addresses that were supplied to the court.
One IP-address was named in three different lawsuits, with time-stamps varying from October to December 2012. These identical IPs were sharing the same movie but were listed in separate cases among dozens of other IP-addresses.
With dynamic IP-addresses there is a theoretical possibility that the downloads all come from different subscribers, but this is not the case here. TorrentFreak talked to the unfortunate John Doe defendant behind the IP 126.96.36.199 who told us that Comcast had recently informed him (or her) about the three pending cases.
Recognizing the bizarre situation, the John Doe prepared his own defense and submitted motions to quash or vacate the subpoenas, to keep his personal details from being shared with the copyright holder. In the motions the Doe explains to the judge that the appearance of a single IP-address in three different cases is suspicious, to say the least.
“Plaintiff’s technical monitoring personnel failed to notice the repeat entries of the identical IP address after sorting and filtering and filed 3 different federal lawsuits. This calls into question their accuracy in managing their cases properly…,” the Doe writes.
Instead of sheer sloppiness, the copyright holder could also have darker intentions. That is, to submit the IPs in multiple cases hoping that at least one judge grants a subpoena.
“Plaintiff’s strategic decision may be to split this same IP address into 3 different cases with the assumption that each case will be assigned to 3 different judges. This way plaintiff’s chances are increased of at least one case being granted by one of the judges,” the Doe explains.
Fortunately for the defendant, the cases all landed on the desk of the same judge. This makes it likely that, leaving all other issues aside, at least two of the three cases will be thrown out.
TorrentFreak spoke with defense lawyer Nicholas Ranallo, who has experience with these type of cases. Ranallo has never seen multiple cases being filed for one IP-address before, and points out that if this is allowed to continue BitTorrent users could be sued hundreds if not thousands of times for a single download.
“I think it would be very difficult for a Plaintiff to sue for three ‘different’ infringements of the same movie. If you could sue for three, you could sue for a nearly infinite number, given the structure of BitTorrent,” Ranallo says.
Another issue brought up by the attorney is that there’s a limit on the maximum damages for a single infringement. If multiple suits for seemingly the same offense are allowed then this limitation would be rendered meaningless.
“In addition, there is a limitation in the copyright act that you are only allowed one award of statutory damages per work, per action. I don’t think you can get around this limitation simply by filing two suits for the same thing, one on Day 1 and one on Day 2,” Ranallo told TorrentFreak.
“The entire limitation would be rendered meaningless – copyright infringement almost never involves a single ‘copy’ of anything,” he adds.
However, from the looks of it the intention of the Zambezia makers was not to outsmart the law. An analysis of the evidence posted on DTD shows that there are multiple repeat IP addresses listed. Some duplicates even appeared in the same case, but with a different version of the BitTorrent client.
“Overall, I think it is sloppiness in one form or another. It looks like the torrenter just changed/updated from Utorrent 1.0 to 1.1, so it registered as discrete individuals and nobody looked closely to weed these things out,” Ranallo explains.
The defendant we talked to hopes that the judge will recognize the sloppiness and end the cases. Getting trolled is never a pleasant experience, but receiving three separate settlement letters for the same download is just ridiculous.