WOW! is being sued by a group of movie companies including Millennium Media and Voltage Pictures.
The filmmakers accuse the ISP of failing to disconnect the accounts of subscribers who were repeatedly flagged for sharing copyrighted material. They hold WOW! liable for these pirating activities, which could lead to millions of dollars in damages.
The ISP challenged the claims and filed a motion to dismiss the case. Among other things, the company argued that an IP address is not sufficient to prove that subscribers downloaded or shared any infringing material. The filmmakers opposed this motion, which has yet to be decided on by the Colorado federal court.
Filmmakers Want Subscriber Details
In the meantime, another issue has raised its head. Both sides are gathering evidence to prepare for the case moving forward. As part of that process, the filmmakers have demanded the personal details of roughly 14,000 subscribers whose WOW! accounts were allegedly used to pirate content.
WOW! objected to this request, arguing that the names and addresses of its subscribers are irrelevant to the core question of whether it reasonably implemented a repeat infringer policy. The filmmakers disagreed, noting that the information can be cross-checked to determine whether the ISP notified its subscribers and terminated accounts in response to infringement notices.
After reviewing the arguments from both sides, the Court eventually came up with a compromise. The filmmakers offered to reduce the targeted IP-addresses to the 375 top pirating unique IP addresses, which the Court saw as a reasonable request, especially considering the damages at stake.
“This is a more reasonable and proportional request, particularly since Plaintiffs currently calculate their statutory damages at $13,950,000,” Judge Hegarty wrote.
Subscribers File Objections
Not all WOW! subscribers are pleased with this order, however. Over the past few weeks, more than 30 “John Doe” subscribers objected to having their personal details shared with the filmmakers.
The content of these objections is shielded from public view, and it’s not clear how the Court will respond. When Judge Hegarty issued the underlying order he noted that objections would be promptly resolved, but there’s no sign of that in the docket.
It’s understandable that the subscribers want to remain anonymous. They are suspected of repeatedly downloading and sharing pirated films, which can potentially lead to tens of thousands of dollars in damages claims. In this case, however, subscribers appear to have little to worry about.
Nothing to Worry About?
WOW! and the filmmakers previously signed a mutually agreed protective order which states that the subscriber information “shall be used solely for the purpose of preparation, trial, and appeal of this litigation and for no other purpose.”
The filmmakers said that they want to reach out to the subscribers directly in order to verify that WOW! took measures to address repeat infringers. This reason was also cited by Judge Hegarty when he ruled on the order.
“Plaintiffs want to be able to, in essence, cross-check whatever Defendant produces with information from the subscribers themselves.”
The filmmakers believe that the Internet provider isn’t being entirely forthright. Their complaint already cited two declarations from pirating WOW! subscribers, who state that the ISP never forwarded any notices to them, despite claims to the contrary.
Whether the Court will grant the objections and keep the identities of the objecting subscribers private has yet to be seen. In the grander scheme of things it shouldn’t matter too much, as the filmmakers still have hundreds of others they can “cross-check” things with.