Verizon Fights Copyright Troll Demands in Court

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Verizon is protesting a broad subpoena the company received from Malibu Media, one of the most active copyright trolls in the United States. The ISP is fighting a deposition of its employees and is refusing to hand over private correspondence and information about modems and other equipment, citing the copyright holder's "extortionate" practices.

verizon-progressMalibu Media, the Los Angeles based company behind the ‘X-Art’ adult movies, is one of the most active copyright trolls in the United States.

The company has filed thousands of lawsuits in recent years, targeting Internet subscribers whose accounts were allegedly used to share Malibu’s films.

These cases generally don’t go to trial. Instead, the adult movie studio obtains a subpoena from the court so it can ask Internet providers to expose the accused subscribers.

Verizon is one of the ISPs which is often targeted, and the company has responded to thousands of subpoenas from Malibu alone, without complaining. However, a broad subpoena that arrived a few days ago is a bridge too far for Verizon.

The subpoena was issued in a case currently before the Southern District of New York.

To prove that a Verizon subscriber is guilty, Malibu Media requested additional information from the ISP including private communications with the subscriber, technical details about its modems and a deposition of Verizon employees.

Verizon, however, does not plan to comply and has asked the court for support. The ISP begins its reply with a general overview of how copyright trolls work, noting that their practices cost providers a lot of time and resources.

“These ‘Doe’ cases impose undue burdens upon the ISPs, including Verizon, who have been asked to respond to thousands of subpoenas from Malibu Media. The subpoenas have required a large amount of Verizon’s employees’ time to evaluate and respond to competing and sometimes overlapping requests for information,” the ISP writes (pdf).

Verizon points out that these piracy lawsuits are increasingly being scrutinized by the courts, some of which have compared it to an “extortion scheme.”

Aside from the general burdens Verizon notes that Malibu should not be allowed to call in Verizon employees from another state for a deposition on such a short notice.

“The subpoena here improperly demanded that Verizon’s employees, who work in Arlington, Virginia, and reside nearby, travel to San Angelo, Texas, on short notice for a deposition and to bring documents with them.”

In addition, the information requested by Malibu Media is not relevant or outside the scope of the Cable Act, which prevents certain privacy sensitive data from being shared.

“The additional information now sought by Plaintiff’s subpoena — correspondence between Verizon and the subscriber, information about the rental of modems or other equipment, and Verizon’s general policies and procedures — is either irrelevant, more properly sought from a party to litigation, or outside the scope of discovery contemplated by the Cable Act,” Verizon writes.

The above clearly shows that Verizon is taking a stand. This could mean that Malibu Media’s request may hurt the company’s litigation efforts in the long run, as copyright troll watcher SJD suggests.

“The critical gear of the well-oiled extortion machine is the relationship between the troll and ISPs. We see a small crack in this gear, and I really hope this crack will grow over time,” she writes.

Currently, Verizon and other ISPs don’t oppose subpoenas that request personal details of subscribers based on an IP-address, but this may change in the future.

It’s now up to judge Katherine Forrest to decide whether the requested subpoena for additional information indeed goes too far. Forrest previously likened Malibu’s practices to “harassment,” which may be factored into the decision.


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