Since the beginning of last year various copyright holders have sued tens of thousands of BitTorrent users who allegedly shared films without permission. The copyright holders file mass lawsuits in order to obtain the identities of the alleged infringers, and then make them an offer to settle for hundreds of dollars.
This idea has been copied from German and UK lawyers who’ve made millions with this pay-up-or-else scheme at relatively low cost. In the UK, however, the tide is slowly turning as judges are increasingly taking the side of the accused. In the US we now see a similar pattern emerging.
Last month, the US Copyright Group (USCG) dropped thousands of alleged BitTorrent file-sharers from the Far Cry case because of a lack of jurisdiction. Although these cases can be refiled in other jurisdictions, it seriously limits the profitability of the law firm’s business model.
And today there is another victory for hundreds of BitTorrent users who were sued by the company DigiProtect, the poster child of the “pay up or else” scheme. DigiProtect is not a copyright holder in the true sense of the word, but simply licenses films and music for peer-to-peer distribution. A license to sue, basically.
Attorney Robert Cashman of Cashman Law Firm just informed us that DigiProtect’s case against 266 alleged file-sharers has pretty much ended. Cashman, who represents one of the defendants accused of sharing ‘Anal Fanatic’, told us that the case was ‘orally’ dismissed by Judge Thomas Griesa.
“I do not know on what grounds it was dismissed, but from what I heard, the judge was upset about the jurisdiction issues and the improper joinder issues with the case,” Cashman told TorrentFreak.
The reason for the dismissal is not yet formally known since the paperwork has yet to be filed. Once this happens more information should be available on the grounds of the dismissal, which will then be official. It is beyond doubt, however, that this development represents yet another setback for the mass-settlement lawsuits that have been filed across the US.
The second mass lawsuit that was filed by DigiProtect is also in trouble. In this case 240 alleged BitTorrent users were sued. However, there are signs that this one, which is appointed to another judge, will not be dismissed just yet.
“I’ve heard that the other case is also in jeopardy because of the improper joinder and improper jurisdiction issues, but my contact did not seem to think it was going to be dismissed outright like the original one,” Cashman said. He advises anyone who’s involved in the case to not sign any settlement agreements yet.
Behind the scenes there are a lot of dirty tricks being played out. Comcast even got involved as the company felt it was being pressured by DigiProtect to hand over subscriber info with deadlines they could not possibly meet. In addition, Cashman told us that DigiProtect continued to pursue settlements after the case was already orally dismissed.
“As a side ethical issue, knowing the case was orally dismissed, DigiProtect’s attorney continued to solicit settlement agreements. It appears based on one of the settlement offers copied to me that he contacted my client directly in violation of the ethics rules.”
“I have already let the court know about Britton Payne’s settlement offers post-dismissal, and have forwarded a redacted copy of the settlement documents to Judge Griesa’s chambers for his review,” Cashman added.
All in all it looks like the once so profitable business model is getting quite a bit of resistance in the US as well as the UK. Although we don’t think it’s going to end soon, the ongoing troubles will at least make sensible copyright holders think twice before they enter this PR nightmare.
DigiProtect on the other hand has little to lose. The company’s sole purpose seems to be to exploit the copyrights of others by suing users of file-sharing networks. They are copyright parasites in the truest sense of the word, and a prime example of how copyright – which was invented to protect makers of creative works – is being abused.