US judge dismisses mass lawsuit against porn file sharers

The ability for copyright groups to file large amounts of copyright infringement lawsuits at a single time has been given a strong setback by a West Virginia federal judge. Judge John Preston Bailey rejected the efforts by several copyright groups seeking to sue 1,037 accused file sharers of distributing copyrighted pornographic content.

Attorney Kenneth Ford (representing the porn studios) has filed 22,000 copyright claims related to illegal file sharing, and the judge ordered Ford to pay a $350 standard filing fee for some of the lawsuits. In total, he would have to pay $1.8 million in filing fees alone for the cases thrown out by the judge — as more people criticize the use of John Doe lawsuits as a scare tactic to force confused file sharers to settle out of court, regardless of guilt.

US judge dismisses mass lawsuit against porn file sharers

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had this to say regarding the judge’s orders:

“This is the next nail in the coffin of the copyright trolls,” said Cindy Cohn, EFF Legal Director, in a press statement. “Now that judges are starting to reject the shoddy and unfair tactics being used by the attorneys filing these cases and force plaintiffs to play by the rules, this type of mass litigation will no longer be a good business model.”

Unless the plaintiffs are able to prove the John Doe defendant is located in West Virginia, they are not allowed to re-file the lawsuits. The EFF and other legal experts will continue to monitor the case and file any additional lawsuits if necessary.

In a similar situation, the US Copyright Group had a mass lawsuit thrown out by Judge Rosemary Collyer against accused Far Cry video game pirates, also due to lack of jurisdiction.

These are significant victories for all US internet users, as it affects all who are targeted by these unfair lawsuits, whether guilty of copyrighted file sharing or not. Even so, consumers might face a much larger threat in 2011. The copyright groups are now focusing on working directly with governments and ISPs to enforce copyright bans and draft three-strikes laws to punish file sharers.