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670 Alleged File-Sharers Off The Hook As BitTorrent Case Dismissed


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On 21st September 2010, a mass lawsuit was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The suit, which was filed by lawyer Evan Stone on behalf of Mick Haig Productions, targeted 670 BitTorrent users who allegedly shared an obscure adult movie titled Der Gute Onkel.

As revealed in our earlier article, the complaint stated that Mick Haig owns the copyright to the movie, but it was never officially registered with the Copyright Office. But as we will read, there were bigger, more terminal problems in store.

The court appointed counsel for the Does, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen, had argued that Mick Haig had wrongly sued hundreds of people in one case, in the wrong jurisdiction and were therefore not entitled to send subpoenas for the Does’ personal details.

In the face of this criticism, last week Mick Haig and Evan Stone dropped their case, but not without some extremely harsh words for the EFF, PC and the Court.

“Rather than choosing competent local counsel experienced in intellectual property law, the Court appointed a trio of attorneys renowned for defending internet piracy and renowned for their general disregard for intellectual property law,” Mike Haig said in their notice of dismissal.

Going on to complain about various processes, Mick Haig concludes:

“Now, four months after the initial filing of this case, with little chance of discovery in sight, Plaintiff feels it has lost any meaningful opportunity to pursue justice in this matter. As such, Plaintiff has notified all relevant internet service providers that this case is being dismissed and hereby notifies the Court of the same.”

In a statement the EFF noted that copyright holders have the right to protect their works, but not if they use unfair tactics.

“When adult film companies launch these cases, there is the added pressure of embarrassment associated with pornography, which can convince those ensnared in the suits to quickly pay what’s demanded of them, whether or not they have legitimate defenses. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the process is fair,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry.

“This dismissal is wonderful news for the 670 anonymous defendants in this case, but troubling questions remain about the behavior of Mick Haig Productions,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.

“Given the extremely invasive power of subpoenas, plaintiffs have a duty to ensure that subpoenas are not misused. EFF is committed to ensuring that litigants are held accountable for taking shortcuts around the due process rights of their opponents, especially in cases such as this one where the very act of obtaining someone’s identity could be improperly leveraged into pressure to settle a claim.”

Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, the Mick Haig cannot file cases against any of the 670 Does in this matter in the future, even in the correct jurisdiction.

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Lawyers can't handle opposition, give up on P2P porn lawsuit

An angry Texas lawyer has dismissed a file-sharing lawsuit on behalf of a pornographic German film called Der Gute Onkel, all thanks to those meddling kids at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Citizen.

"The Court appointed a trio of attorneys renowned for defending Internet piracy and renowned for their general disregard for intellectual property law," wrote attorney Evan Stone of Denton, Texas, saying that his opponents were delaying things so much that he had no choice but to dismiss the suit.

When file-sharing attorneys file lawsuits against anonymous defendants, they initially face no opposition—their targets are unknown, so no lawyers speak up for their interests until after the subpoenas have been filed and their names are revealed. The EFF and Public Citizen are out to change that, as they did in the Gute Onkel case. The two groups asked the judge to appoint them as attorneys ad litem to speak up for the 670 unknown defendants—and the court agreed.

A few weeks later, Stone asked the court to dismiss the case, and he had harsh words for the other attorneys.

The Court appointed attorneys ad litem for the Defense. Rather than choosing competent local counsel experienced in intellectual property law, the Court appointed a trio of attorneys renowned for defending Internet piracy and renowned for their general disregard for intellectual property law. Additionally, instead of instructing these attorneys to engage Plaintiff's counsel in a discovery conference which would allow the case to move forward, the Court ordered attorneys for the Defense to respond to Plaintiff's Motion, for which the Court has yet to make a ruling. The response of the Defense was largely beyond the scope of the Discovery Motion at issue, raising defenses as absurd as the notion that a Defendant's choice of what movie to illegally download from the Internet is "protected speech" under the First Amendment. Moreover, the Defense provided no alternatives for Plaintiff to cure the harm inflicted on it by Defendants. Now, four months after the initial filing of this case, with little chance of discovery in sight, Plaintiff feels it has lost any meaningful opportunity to pursue justice in this matter. As such, Plaintiff has notified all relevant Internet service providers that this case is being dismissed and hereby notifies the Court of the same.

The move pleased the EFF.

"Copyright owners have a right to protect their works, but they can't use shoddy and unfair tactics to do so," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "When adult film companies launch these cases, there is the added pressure of embarrassment associated with pornography, which can convince those ensnared in the suits to quickly pay what's demanded of them, whether or not they have legitimate defenses. That's why it's so important to make sure the process is fair."

Stone has brought many such cases in Texas, all on behalf of pornographers. The goal is generally small settlements from those accused of sharing porn, not lengthy court cases. As Stone told the Dallas Observer last September, "Almost everybody that has replied to my letters has replied, 'Hey you caught me, I'm ready to comply. We've had several defendants settle or begin making payments."

But if Stone was hoping to grab quick subpoenas and blast out settlement letters, the EFF and Public Citizen look set to make that as difficult as possible for him.

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