District Court Considers Propriety of Mass Subpoenas Issued in Doe Copyright Infringement Suits
During a recent hearing, Judge Rosemary Collyer, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, expressed concerns about a law firm’s litigation strategy of grouping thousands of individuals together in mass copyright infringement suits. The law firm, newly renamed the United States Copyright Group, has filed seven Doe suits aimed at individuals using BitTorrent to download independent films such as Call of the Wild, Hurt Locker, and Far Cry, and issued subpoenas to Internet Service Providers seeking the names and addresses of subscribers associated with over 14,000 IP addresses. Time Warner Cable moved to quash the subpoenas as an abuse of discovery, and amici, including Public Citizen, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed briefs and appeared at the hearing in support of TWC. After hearing argument, Judge Collyer noted that while defendants have a right to defend their copyrights, joining so many parties may deprive individuals of the ability to raise certain legal objections. Accordingly, Judge Collyer suspended the discovery deadlines in the two cases before her, and ordered the parties, including plaintiffs, TWC and the amici, to draft an appropriate notice that can be sent by the ISP’s to their subscribers to explain their legal options, which could potentially include challenges to jurisdiction. The court also placed limits on the number of subpoenas that TWC was forced to comply with each month.