Tomorrow EFF Fights Mass BitTorrent Lawsuits in Court

Tomorrow EFF Fights Mass BitTorrent Lawsuits in Court

Will ask judge to divide up mass copyright infringement lawsuits so that accused file-sharers can be guaranteed fair access to individual justice, arguing that each has no relationship with the others.

Tomorrow a federal court in Washington, D.C., will hear oral argument from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about dividing up the mass copyright infringement lawsuits initiated by the US Copyright Group that it claims “improperly and unfairly target thousands of BitTorrent users.”

Back in March the US Copyright Group targeted more than 20,000 BitTorrent users that it accuses of illegally distributing either of the independent movies “Steam Experiment,” “Far Cry,” “Uncross the Stars,” “Gray Man,” or “Call of the Wild 3D.”

Last month it then convinced the producers of the Academy Award-winning movie “The Hurt Locker,” likely miffed at dismal box office ticket sales, to join their venture which offers the accused quick $2500 settlements to avoid potentially much larger judgments for copyright infringement at trial.

The EFF and ACLU teamed up to fight these mass BitTorrent lawsuits arguing that DC courts cannot even hear the mass infringement cases because the USCG has yet to prove the courts even have jurisdiction over the John Doe defendants, so far only identified by IP address, being targeted.

Even the USCG admits that an IP address can provide a “a general geographic area for the users,” and yet still seeks to lump them all together in DC courtrooms.

Why? The USCG blames BitTorrent’s “architecture.” Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that defendants can be joined in one action of they take part in the “same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.” The USCG believes that because each BitTorrent user, by being part of a swarm, is part of the same “transaction” responsible for sharing copyrighted material.

The EFF and ACLU, though not addressing this assertion, still believes that it’s unfair to expect thousands of people from across the country to have to bear the cost in time and money to travel to a DC courtroom to answer charges for a crime that likely didn’t take place there.

“The stakes are high for anyone identified in USCG’s slipshod cases,” says the EFF. “USCG’s strategy appears to be to threaten a judgment of up to $150,000 per downloaded movie — the maximum penalty allowable by law in copyright suits and a very unlikely judgment in cases arising from a single, noncommercial infringement — in order to pressure the alleged infringers to settle quickly for $1,500 – $2,500 per person.’

Exactly. The USCG isn’t seeking justice at trial, but rather a quick payday that relies on BitTorrent users being scared into settling before then.

If you have been accused the EFF has compiled a list of attorneys that can help.

Stay tuned.

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