A New Jersey district court has issued a devastating order against Strike 3 Holdings, the most active filer of piracy lawsuits in the US. In four separate cases, the court denied a request to obtain identities of alleged BitTorrent pirates. The court argues that the underlying complaints are futile. Even if they held up, other issues such as the privacy of the accused and Strike 3's failure to use other enforcement tools, would warrant a denial.
For more than a decade, alleged file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees. These so-called ‘copyright-trolling’ efforts are pretty straightforward. Copyright holders obtain a list of ‘pirating’ IP-addresses and then request a subpoena from the court, compelling ISPs to hand over the associated customer data. This scheme can be rather lucrative. With minimal effort, rightsholders can rake in hundreds or thousands of dollars per defendant. That is, if a court grants expedited discovery, allowing the companies to request the personal details of alleged infringers from ISPs. In the past, it has been relatively easy to pursue these cases, but the tide is slowly turning. Most prominent was a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last year in the Cobbler Nevada v. Gonzales case. Here, the court ruled that identifying the registered subscriber of an IP-address is by itself not enough to argue that this person is also the infringer.
While the Cobbler case wasn’t about a subpoena request, it certainly said something about the strength of the underlying complaints. As the most prolific filer of piracy lawsuits in the US, Strike 3 Holdings has come under fire as well. For example, last November Columbia District Judge Lamberth accused the company of being a “copyright troll,” that uses “famously flawed” technology to prey on “low-hanging fruit,” flooding the courthouse “with lawsuits smacking of extortion.” That didn’t stop Strike 3, which produces adult content, from continuing its legal campaign. The company filed has more than 1,150 lawsuits already this year, many of which are believed to have resulted in profitable settlements.