Today the Bellwether case officially concluded. Judge Baylson has issued his final memorandum opinion, found here.
Notably, you may recall that we filed a motion to dismiss 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 argument 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. … As I held then and believe even more firmly now, members of BitTorrent “swarms” are not essential parties for copyright infringement suits involving BitTorrent technology because the “swarm” 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. Further, joining multiple defendants allows the plaintiff to 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. 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, I wrote an article 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.