Federal Judge Quashes “Hurt Locker” Subpoenas

Federal Judge Quashes “Hurt Locker” Subpoenas

US Magistrate Judge John Simko says subpoena submitted by the US Copyright Group are “not in compliance” with federal guidelines determining the geographic considerations of how they must be handled, and that individuals being targeted in the mass BitTorrent lawsuit subpoena lie outside the jurisdiction of the DC courtroom where it was obtained.

The ridiculous efforts by the US Copyright Group on behalf of the Academy Award-winning movie “The Hurt Locker” to try and sue tens of thousands of BitTorrent users for illegally sharing copies of the movie online has taken another blow with news that a judge with the US District Court for the Southern Division of South Dakota has quashed its subpoena demanding that a South Dakota ISP turn over the names of suspected file-sharers.

The US Copyright Group filed the lawsuits in a DC courtroom back in May, and ever since then ISPs and others have been rejecting its assertion that the court has jurisdiction over the accused. It says that it does because BitTorrent is “significantly different in its architecture than the older P2P protocols,” that users create torrent trackers to “essentially create a network dedicated to sharing” a specific file, and that it’s this joint series of “transactions” and “occurrences” that justifies their inclusion in a single lawsuit.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Public Citizen have already argued in briefs submitted to the same DC-based court that the IP addresses in the US Copyright Group’s possession can provide a “a general geographic area for the users” that proves the court has no jurisdiction over them.

Midcontinent Communications first received the subpoena a few weeks ago and immediately filed a motion to quash it, arguing that it’s customer base is exclusively outside the DC area and therefore well outside the court’s jurisdiction.

It also complained that it won’t be justly compensated for the work involved in identifying the accused.

US Magistrate Judge John Simko has now sided with Midcontinent, noting that the subpoena was “not in compliance with any of the four descriptions of Rule 45(b)(2).”

Federal Rule 45 reads:

(2) Service in the United States.

Subject to Rule 45(c)(3)(A)(ii), a subpoena may be served at any place:

(A) within the district of the issuing court;

(B) outside that district but within 100 miles of the place specified for the deposition, hearing, trial, production, or inspection;

(C) within the state of the issuing court if a state statute or court rule allows service at that place of a subpoena issued by a state court of general jurisdiction sitting in the place specified for the deposition, hearing, trial, production, or inspection; or

(D) that the court authorizes on motion and for good cause, if a federal statute so provides.

The subpoena submitted by the US Copyright Group fails on all four counts.

“Furthermore,” continues the Judge Simko, “it was delivered only by fax (service should generally be by registered mail or in person), and “service by facsimile transmission is not an authorized method of service under the Rule. The motion to quash is GRANTED for insufficient service of process.”

Part of the problem is that the US Copyright Group improperly submitted the subpoena by fax.

So far the US Copyright Group has not responded to the judge’s decision, and so it’s unclear what it’ll do next.

Being that it has already reportedly enlisted the help of some 15 law firms around the country to begin filing individual lawsuits against people in their respective areas who have refused to settle out court it may just turn over the IP addresses to them for sorting out.

Stay tuned.

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