1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

No go for John Doe show

Dominic Purcell as John Doe in the
eponymous 2002-2003 TV series
AF Holdings LLC, which claims to own numerous copyrights to pornographic films, and has been described as an 'arm' of the rather controversial copyright trolling law firm Prenda Law, has been rebuffed in it's bid to obtain subpoenas identifying information on 1,085 allegedly illegal downloaders. The District Court had ruled that AF could subpoena Internet service providers including Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp for identify information on subscribers whose computers were linked to downloads of the movie via the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol.  

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that AF was not entitled to contact information for people whose Internet addresses were linked to downloads of the film “Popular Demand” because few of them live in the District of Columbia, where the case was filed, and it’s unlikely any connection exists among all of the Internet addresses subject to the subpoena: “It is quite obvious that AF Holdings could not possibly have had a good faith belief that it could successfully sue the overwhelming majority of the 1,058 John Doe defendants in this district” U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel wrote, adding that “AF Holdings clearly abused the discovery process” and that the action was "a quintessential example of Prenda Law's modus operandi". The judgment is well worth a read and ends with

"Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.  We leave it to the district court to determine what sanctions, if  any, are warranted for AF Holdings’s use of a possible  forgery in support of its claim. "

With a headline of "Crushing Blow for Copyright Trolls: Appeals Court Halts AF Holdings' Extortion Scheme" The EFF had this to say: "The case is one of hundreds around the country that follow the same pattern. A copyright troll looks for IP addresses that may have been used to download films (often adult films) via BitTorrent, files a single lawsuit against thousands of "John Doe" defendants based on those IP addresses, then seeks to subpoena the ISPs for the contact information of the account holders associated with those IP addresses. The troll then uses that information to contact the account holders and threatens expensive litigation if they do not settle promptly. Faced with the prospect of hiring an attorney and litigating the issue, often in a distant court, most subscribers-including those who may have done nothing wrong-will choose to settle rather than fight."

And over on the Register under the headline "Smut-spreading copyright trolls lose John Doe case" it's explained that 

"AF Holdings' last smackdown was in November 2013, when the US District Court of Minnesota found that it hadn't demonstrated ownership of the content claimed in a previous shakedown. That court ordered that the company return the money it had obtained from punters, as well as paying their legal costs. That ruling, however, didn't stop one of the two movies, Popular Demand, being the subject of the Columbia and then US Court of Appeals case.

AF Holdings was represented by Paul Duffy, who at the previous lower court hearings as associated with Prenda Law." 

More on the Washington Post here http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/05/27/prenda-law-was-a-porno-trolling-collective/

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