Talking Torrents: Judge Baylson Issues Final Memorandum Opinion on the Bellwether Trial; Kills Mass Joinder Torrent Actions

June 19, 2013

Today the Bellwether case officially concluded. Judge BaylsonΒ has issued his final memorandum opinion, found here.

Notably, you may recall that we filed a motion to dismissΒ at the outset of the case, arguing that all of the swarm are indispensable parties. Joinder is either proper or its not. The court rejected that argumentΒ and denied our motion.

Interestingly, the court’s opinion memorandum opinion issued today held that joinder is not approprriate in a bittorrent case:

I now believe that joinder of multiple defendants in a single complaint alleging copyright infringement through the use of BitTorrent technology is neither necessary nor appropriate. … Β As I held then and believe even more firmly now, members of BitTorrent β€œswarms” are not essential parties for copyright infringement suits involving BitTorrent technology because the β€œswarm” is formed automatically by the software, and not by any actual association of these defendants. Moreover, there are downsides to allowing permissive joinder. As trial judges are well aware, a large number of defendants in a single complaint poses significant management problems and often delays disposition of cases.Β Further, joining multiple defendants allows the plaintiff toΒ avoid separate filing fees, and also pressures individual defendants to settle because their costs of defending a multi-party case are likely to be larger than if there is only one defendant.Β For these reasons, and based on the record made in this case, I recommend against requiring joinder under Rule 19 and also against allowing it under Rule 20(a).

While this opinion will most likely end the era of massively joined bittorrent actions, I don’t think this is the end of torrent lawsuits. I suspect you will see more actions filed against individuals accused of massive infringement.

But absent massive joinder actions, is this the end of what is popularly characterized as “copyright trolling?” Does this mean that now plaintiffs will be more willing to take their cases to trial?

We shall see.

You may also recall that last year, IΒ wrote an articleΒ suggesting that mass joinder actions may be better for individual John Doe defendants.

There is a lot going on in this opinion, and I’m sure you will all have interesting takeaways from it.


Talking Torrents: Some Thoughts on Prosecuting and Defending Bittorrent Cases

June 16, 2013

600px-US-CopyrightOffice-SealMany of you have heard of bittorrent litigation by now. In short, copyright holders will sue a group of people sharing their work on bittorrent. Often the lawsuits involve pornographic movies. Many of these lawsuits also involve large amounts of defendants, e.g.,Β Media Company v. Does 1-50, which has lead to significant amounts of criticism. This month I had the pleasure of defending the first ever bittorent case to ever see the inside of a courtroomΒ in the Bellwether Trial – Malibu Media v. Does 1, 13, and 16.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of litigating bittorrent cases, there is a popular narrative on the internet. It goes something like this:Β all the cases are a mass extortion scheme, the people accused were picked out of a hat, no one pirates anything on the internet, nothing could ever be proven in court, and if you just fight them a little bit these guys will run away and probably get sanctioned like Prenda Law.

If you read the internet, you would think everyone who gets sued in a torrent case is an unsuspecting victim forced to settle because it’s the cheaper route. And it doesn’t matter because none of theses case could ever be taken to trial anyway.

I disagree, and I think there is a lot of untrue information out there on the internet.Β This is my two cents, take it for what it’s worth…

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