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Reverse class-action? It's the latest tactic in the P2P wars


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Imagine yourself as a lawyer who would like nothing better than to sue a few thousand people for some of the raunchiest pornography ever inflicted upon the world. You face a problem: when you sue individuals in federal court, where copyright suits are brought, you have to file suit in whichever District Court the defendant resides in. Who has the time and money to bring cases all over the country?

So you try your luck anyway, only to have federal judges smack you down and force the dismissal of most of your cases on "personal jurisdiction" grounds. This stings, and you retreat to your lair.

Then a brilliant thought strikes: there's one kind of case in which people from all over the US can be charged in a single District Court. It's called a "class action," and it's generally used when a large group of people sue a company. But flip it around—one company sues a large group of people—and you may have solved the "personal jurisdiction" issue at a single stroke!"

And hey, while you're at it, why limit yourself to suing over just one film at a time? Why not just define the class as "anyone who has stolen any of my client's movies on BitTorrent" and sue all sorts of people over all sorts of movies?

Class in session

Welcome to the next stage of the P2P litigation wars. Family law attorney John Steele of Chicago, who has spent the last six months getting into file-sharing lawsuits, tried the class-action gambit this week in a case filed in Illinois.

Steele's client, OpenMind Solutions, runs websites with names like (really) Meat My Ass and Mommy Blows Best. The company is suing anyone who has downloaded any of its content, including the Throated Megapack, and it's not stopping just with the big ISPs. Universities are also targeted, meaning that the Brandeis user who downloaded "Melanie Rios - Stuffed Petite" may eventually see a settlement demand letter.

Knowing that personal jurisdiction has been a key issue for judges in New York, DC, and West Virginia already, Steele's filing tries to show why he doesn't have the same problem in his class-action request.

This Court has personal jurisdiction over the Class because the putative named class representative Defendants are residents of Illinois. This Court has
in personam
jurisdiction over absent class members because due process is satisfied by providing them with best practicable notice, an opportunity to opt-out, and adequate representation. In addition, the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over individual Defendants because their infringing activity should have reasonably been anticipated to violate the Copyright Act in this jurisdiction. Therefore, due process is satisfied because any person engaged in such activity could reasonably anticipate being haled into this jurisdiction where he or she violated the Copyright Act.

As for the class, it's defined as "All persons, except those with whom settlement has been reached, engaged in copyright infringement activity via BitTorrent file sharing protocol during relevant time period (October 2010, until the date the Court enters an order certifying a defendant class) against Plaintiff's copyrighted works associated with the torrent files enumerated in Exhibit A."

Strangely enough, despite being based in Chicago, Steele has filed his innovative lawsuit downstate in the much smaller Southern District of Illinois (locations in Benton and East St. Louis).

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illegal. trying to get around a law is illegal and this lawyer shold be disbared.

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