Since 2010 around 350,000 people have been accused of sharing copyrighted works on BitTorrent in the United States.
Copyright holders generally sue dozens, hundreds or sometimes even thousands of people at once, hoping to extract cash settlements from the alleged file-sharers.
With settlement amounts up to thousands of dollars the lawsuits are a multi-million dollar business, attracting a diverse group of rightsholders.
In the U.S. the scheme was pioneered by smaller film companies, followed by makers of adult entertainment, anime, books and music. And now we can add a software company to the list as the Canadian based reFX has sued 180 alleged BitTorrent users at a federal court in Missouri.
The company makes popular synthesizer software and is going after people who shared their flagship Nexus 2 product. In most aspects the lawsuit is similar to those we’ve seen before, with the Doe defendants being accused of several counts of copyright infringement.
As evidence reFX collected the IP-addresses of the file-sharers, and the company now hopes to get the identities of the subscribers linked to these accounts through a subpoena.
“Plaintiff believes that information obtained in discovery will lead to the identification of each John Doe defendant’s true name and permit the plaintiff to amend this complaint to state the same,” the complaint reads.
“Specifically, plaintiff intends to subpoena the ISPs that issues the John Doe defendant’s IP-addresses in order to learn the identity of the account holders for the IP-addresses.”
This action, to our knowledge, is the first lawsuit brought by a software company against BitTorrent users. But that’s not the only novelty – the list of those targeted for copyright infringement allegations is also unique.
Two of the defendants are students or employees of Webster University and the University of Central Missouri (pdf). Usually, these type of lawsuits are limited to subscriber accounts at major consumer Internet providers – companies and other organizations are usually left alone.
It will be interesting to see how the universities respond to the subpoenas, if they are granted.
reFX Software states in the complaint that they will continue to monitor the unauthorized downloads and add new IP-addresses to the lists as the case progresses. Whether the action will inspire other software makers to do the same remains to be seen.