September 15, 2010 | By corynne mcsherry

John Doe Strikes Back: New Developments in the US Copyright Group ("Hurt Locker") Cases

After months of dragnet litigation and intimidation, some of the thousands of “John Doe” Defendants targeted in mass copyright lawsuits filed in the District of Columbia are fighting back in earnest.

The lawsuits are the brainchild of a Washington, D.C., law firm calling itself the "U.S. Copyright Group" (USCG). USCG investigators have identified IP addresses they allege are associated with the unauthorized uploading and downloading of independent films, including "Far Cry" and "The Hurt Locker." Using those addresses, USCG has filed several "John Doe" lawsuits in D.C., implicating well over 14,000 individuals, and has issued subpoenas to ISPs seeking the identities of the subscribers associated with those IP addresses.

Last week, a group of over 40 Doe Defendants targeted in two of the cases filed an omnibus motion to quash a subpoena seeking their identities and to dismiss the cases against them. The Defendants are represented by Carey Lening, Christina DiEdoardo, Tuna Mecit and Bradford Patrick. Echoing arguments EFF raised in an earlier amicus brief, the Defendants explain that USCG has improperly joined together thousands of defendants and has sued those defendants in the wrong court. In addition, Defendants argue that USCG’s gamesmanship violates the normal procedures for large-scale litigation against people located across the country (the Multi-District Litigation rules), resulting in additional costs and burden to the Defendants. Numerous other Does have moved to quash and/or dismiss as individuals as well.

In addition, the judge in one of the cases has issued orders requiring USCG to justify suing two of the Does in the District of Columbia, as the Defendants claim to have no contacts with the District.

EFF believes USCG's litigation tactics violate basic due process rights, and we’ve been working hard both to call the court’s attention to those violations and help the Does get access to the resources they need to defend their rights. Kudos to the attorneys who have signed on to defend these Does, and to the Defendants themselves for demanding that USCG play by the rules.

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