Killer Joe and the Zombie Subpoenas That Aren’t

Over the years we’ve covered a lot copyright litigation, but perhaps the most unpleasant kind is when accusers twist and pervert courts or the law to get what they want.

While most twist the law in grouping large numbers of anonymous John Does into a lump to cut down on court costs and time, courts are increasingly becoming wise, even if people have been warning about it for five years or more.

Some courts are still allowing these cases (notably ex-lobbyist Judge Beryl Howell), but others are getting wise, and denying it.

The Northern District of Georgia is one Federal Court that had rapidly moved into the latter category. In addition to allowing discovery for the defense against perhaps the most notorious of entities in this area – Prenda/AF holdings/etc. – in a hearing last week, they’ve put the brakes on mass joinder there.

A case brought by Killer Joe Nevada, on behalf of the film “Killer Joe”, has hit the brakes there, in the hands of the Chief Judge, Julie E Carnes. While a subpoena was initially granted in the case on May 3rd 2013, soon after (May 28th) it was withdrawn for all but Doe 1, and the remaining Does (2-81)  dropped for misjoinder, and the subpoenas nullified.

However, no-one seems to have told the ISPs that. While eager to get the subpoena to the ISPs to get the details, the same zeal seems not to have been applied in telling those same ISPs to stop. That’s because at least three different people have apparently contacted just one attorney, Blair Chintella, about this case, after being notified by their ISP, after May 28th.

When three individuals reach out to just one lawyer, odds are there’s more out there reaching out to others, and we’ve not heard about it yet. And the court seems worried too, after being informed of this situation. In a June 18th order, Chief US District Judge Carnes:

REMINDS the plaintiff that discovery should have been discontinued and rescinded as to all defendants who were severed and dismissed. The Court DIRECTS the plaintiff to immediately contact the ISPs in each case to rescind and withdraw previously-issued subpoena for each such defendant. Further, any information that plaintiff may have obtained through these subpoenas must be returned.

Plaintiff shall ensure that this information is communicated to each ISP by June 25, 2013 and shall report back to the Court by July 1, 2013, providing copies of these letters to each ISP, as well as a report as to its compliance with this Order.

While we’ve yet to see or hear the results of that order, we remind anyone who has been targeted in this case, or any others, that under no circumstances should you directly contact a company with a John Doe suit proceeding against you, if you intend to fight it.

Most people doing so give their name and address and thus give them what they want. At the very least, consult an attorney. A list of attorneys who may be willing to look at the case can be found at the EFF site, along with some basic advice.

Meanwhile, if the copyright industry would like to know why they are increasingly disliked, take this case as an example.


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