Judge Sides with Copyright Holders in Infringement Case
A federal judge has ruled that Rightscorp is within its rights to subpoena contact information for alleged copyright infringers from their ISPs. The ruling came Monday in a class-action lawsuit brought against Warner Bros. And BMG Rights Management. The plaintiffs claimed that WB and BMG bombarded them with phone calls, threatening further legal action if they fail to reach a settlement and reimburse those whose work they’ve downloaded illegally. The plaintiffs were seeking an injunction ordering the copyright holders to stop harassing them on the grounds of abuse of process. U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer disagreed, however, that the activities of Rightscorp, WB and BMG constituted an abuse of the process.
“The first fatal deficiency in Plaintiff’s abuse of process claim is that Plaintiff raises no ulterior motive in Defendants’ use of the subpoenas,” Fischer noted in his decision. “Whether or not the subpoenas should validly be issued under the circumstances in which Defendants sought them, there is no allegation and no evidence that Defendants sought to do anything other than what their subpoena requests indicated – identify potential copyright infringers for the purpose of pursuing Defendants’ rights under the Copyright Act.” Fischer’s ruling essentially ends the question of whether copyright holders can subpoena contact info for copyrights infringers, but WB and BMG still face an allegation that they violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by relentlessly directing automated phone calls to alleged copyright violators seeking settlements.
While Judge Fischer’s ruling seems to be quite clear on the use of subpoenas in identifying copyright infringers, other judges have ruled in opposition, quashing subpoenas in some cases. Unfortunately, there is just no uniform standard for these types of cases, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and will be , more than likely, until a case makes it all the way to the Supreme Court and a national standard can be determined.