Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner and Cox spent Mid-May in court. The ISPs appealed a district court decision that ordered them to turn over user information for 1,058 customers. These subscribers were accused of downloading pirated films on BitTorrent. The four companies emphasized that the suspected internet subscribers are not necessarily the same individuals who pirated the copyrighted movies.
“Due to unsecured and shared Internet connections in Internet subscribers’ homes, the contact information that Plaintiff seeks is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the true identities of the ‘Does’ who allegedly downloaded Plaintiff’s pornography.”
Protect the Innocent!
The claim of the four companies highlighted the need for caution to be exercised because of the potential for error resulting in massive settlements. This is a particular concern for them in light of the fact that the evidence has never before been properly tested. They said, “These cases present a substantial risk that the ISPs will be required to disclose innocent subscribers’ information for extra-judicial processes, in cases that rarely, if ever, are tested on their merits.”
ISPs have been brought under fire in the past for allegedly not exercising enough controls to stop online piracy. But the ISPs maintain that the perpetrators cannot be clearly identified as the same individuals who have subscribed to their services. They also pointed out that copyright trolls are simply trying to create precedence for mass suits to save on litigation costs.
The Motive Behind the Mass Filing
Last year, AF Holdings’s big win forced these ISPs to release the names of over 1000 subscribers accused of illegal downloading on BitTorrent. Previous rulings were against mass filing of this type, and the ISPs aim to reverse District Court Judge Beryl Howell’s ruling that allowed the targeting of these 1,058 of defendants in a single lawsuit.
The movie studio is aware that it is likely suing innocent parties. The ISPs claim that in spite of this it is pursuing the case because they are interested not in justice concerning the cybercriminals but in the thousands of Dollars in settlements that it can take from each defendant. Innocent subscribers usually favor settlement as opposed to litigation in view of cost and to avoid potential embarrassment due to the sexually explicit nature of the downloaded files in question. The ISPs are therefore concerned about the “great potential for a coercive and unjust ‘settlement’.”
In addition, the ISPs put forward their concerns regarding the controversial Prenda law firm, representing AF Holdings, recently penalized in court for “mob-like” tactics. The penalties covered violations which include using fictitious persons as “clients” and submitting fake documents as supporting evidence for their lawsuits.
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