San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is backing Internet service providers (ISPs) in an effort to quash subpoenas issued in a predatory lawsuit over the alleged illegal downloading of adult material.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and the ACLU of the Nation's Capitol joined EFF in the amicus brief submitted today, arguing that AF Holdings unfairly sued more than a thousand unnamed Internet users in the District of Columbia, even though the users were located all over the country. AF Holdings argues that it is allowed to obtain the identities of the ISPs' customers in D.C., because they might reside in the District or the alleged infringement may have occurred there. But the ISPs that were subpoenaed – including Cox, AT&T, and Verizon – told the court that it was easy to discover that only 20 of the IP addresses were associated with Washington, D.C.

"AF Holdings could have found out where the IP addresses at issue were probably located simply by using a geo-location service that costs about $8 per thousand addresses," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "But the company didn't do that, because its doesn't want to know. Following the rules would make its job harder, requiring it to file lawsuits across the country against thousands of individuals rather than suing all Does at once. Thousands of lawsuits just doesn't fit the copyright troll business model."

Today's brief is the latest in EFF's efforts to stop copyright trolls – content owners and lawyers who team up to extract settlements from thousands of defendants at a time. Typically, once the identities of suspected infringers are obtained from ISPs, plaintiffs send settlement letters offering to make the accusations go away for a few thousand dollars, a sum considerably smaller than what defendants would need to fight the case in court. In addition to the problem of jurisdiction, many of these cases also lump hundreds of defendants together, making it even harder for Internet users to defend themselves. When you consider the added stigma over association with pornography, you can see how the deck is stacked against subpoena targets.

"Once these copyright trolls get names from ISPs, the cases are essentially over," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "We can't let them continue to game the system with these shoddy lawsuits. We're asking the judge to force AF Holdings to play by the rules and respect the rights of each and every defendant."

For the full amicus brief:

For more about copyright trolls:


Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Mitch Stoltz
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

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