The ongoing avalanche of mass-BitTorrent lawsuits reveal that IP-addresses can get people into a heap of trouble.
In many cases the person who pays for the account is not the person who shared the copyrighted material. However, this is the person who gets sued, something that can have all kinds of financial implications.
To shield their customers from this kind of outcome Verizon now objects to subpoenas granted by courts in these cases. Not in one case, but in dozens. One of the arguments cited by Verizon’s attorneys is that the requests breach the privacy rights of its customers.
“[The subpoena] seeks information that is protected from disclosure by third parties’ rights of privacy and protections guaranteed by the first amendment,” their counsel informed the copyright holders.
Verizon further cites arguments that have previously been successful in similar cases, including the notion that mass lawsuits are not proper as the defendants did not act in concert.
Three of the copyright holders, all makers of adult films, have had enough of Verizon’s refusals and have filed a lawsuit against the company at a federal court in Texas. Malibu Media, Patrick Collins and Third Degree Films ask the court to hold Verizon in contempt and compel Verizon to respond to the subpoenas.
“Verizon objects to the subpoenas on various grounds, all of which lack merit. Accordingly, Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court overrule each of Verizon’s objections, compel immediate compliance with Plaintiffs’ subpoenas and hold Verizon in contempt for failing to obey the subpoenas,” they write.
Aside from countering Verizon’s arguments directly, the copyright holders claim that Verizon’s refusal to hand over customer details is in bad faith, as the ISP profits from the alleged copyright infringements.
The movie companies back up this claim by pointing to a study published last year, which concluded that large ISPs profit from BitTorrent at the expense of smaller ones.
“Verizon’s current Objections can only be seen as being asserted in bad faith, and with the expectation to continue to profit from BitTorrent infringement at the expense of other, lower-tier ISPs and the consuming public at large. There is seemingly no incentive for ISPs such as Verizon to aggressively identify infringers on their network,” they tell the court.
“Add to this the fact that Verizon and its cohorts enjoy virtual immunity from liability under the development of laws such as the DMCA, and this scenario presents multiple concerns of fairness and accountability.”
While it’s a novel argument, the movie studios omit to mention that Verizon is also one of the partners in the upcoming “six-strikes” scheme, which aims to decrease copyright infringements through BitTorrent.
The ISP previously told TorrentFreak that it sees more value in a system where users are warned and educated, as opposed to being sued in court.
“We believe this program offers the best approach to the problem of illegal file sharing and, importantly, is one that respects the privacy and rights of our subscribers. It also provides a mechanism for helping people to find many great sources of legal content,” Verizon told us.
The “six strikes” anti-piracy scheme, or copyright alerts system as it’s officially named, is expected to go live later this week. But since the adult film industry is not invited, mass-BitTorrent lawsuits are not going away anytime soon.
That said, the current case can make a huge impact according to Rob Cashman, a lawyer who represents many accused Does in these BitTorrent cases.
Cashman explains that if the ISP wins then copyright holders have no other way to identified the defendants, meaning that these and other Verizon defendants are off the hook.
“The hope and expectation on my end is that other ISPs will follow suit. This will be one more way we can shut down these trolling cases for good,” Cashman says.
“On the flip-side, if the judges grant the request to force the ISPs to comply with their subpoenas, then it will be “game on” for both of us. They will continue trying to extort money from the defendants, and attorneys such as myself and others will continue placing our “monkey wrenches” to break their operations,” Cashman adds.
Whatever happens, the case is going to be one to watch.