Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked a judge in Washington, D.C., to dismiss copyright infringement claims against two defendants wrongfully ensnared in mass movie-downloading lawsuits.
In an amicus brief filed Friday, EFF argues that the copyright troll behind the suits -- a law firm calling itself the "U.S. Copyright Group" (USCG) -- is flouting court rules and engaging in unfounded speculation in order to pressure people into paying premature settlements. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of the Nation's Capital, and Public Citizen Litigation Group joined EFF in the amicus brief.
USCG has filed these suits against approximately 16,000 defendants so far in Washington, D.C., alleging that they participated in unauthorized downloading of films including "Far Cry" and "The Hurt Locker." Two of the defendants have submitted evidence that they do not live in Washington, D.C., and since neither of the plaintiffs is located there either, the court ordered the plaintiffs to explain why D.C. is the proper place to sue those individuals. EFF and its co-amici filed Friday's brief to urge the court to dismiss those defendants and put a stop to USCG's legal gamesmanship.
"Imagine being accused of something and threatened with a huge court judgment, but in order to defend yourself you had to hire a lawyer thousands of miles away," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Wouldn't you be tempted to pay a smaller settlement to make it go away, even if you were innocent? That's what we think USCG is counting on. And that's why we have rules about where people can be sued, and how -- rules that USCG has ignored here."
Attempting to show why the case is properly in D.C., USCG engaged in speculation with no factual support, arguing that even though the defendants live in other places, they may have been visiting Washington, D.C., when the alleged downloading occurred -- and somehow managed to use their home IP addresses while engaging in illegal downloading during their trips. USCG also speculated that even if the defendants were at home, it was possible that they downloaded the movies from or uploaded the movies to someone who was in Washington, D.C. USCG presented no evidence that either of these unlikely scenarios actually occurred.
"USCG was ordered to show that these defendants were in the court's jurisdiction," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Corynne McSherry. "Instead of facts, it offered wildly improbable scenarios and asked the court to delay dismissing anyone until it researched and identified all 6,230 people it sued in the two lawsuits at issue. Meanwhile, USCG continues to sue more targets and pressure more people into premature settlements, even where the case may have been brought in the wrong place. We're asking the judge to dismiss these individuals immediately and to force USCG to follow the rules for the thousands of other people sued as well."
For the full amicus brief:
For more on USCG and copyright trolls:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation