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Judge Rules BitTorrent Cases Must Be Tried Separately

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the enjoy-your-filing-fees dept.

The Courts 60

PhrostyMcByte writes: "TorrentFreak reports that Federal Judge Stephanie Rose recently put a thorn in the plans of copyright holders hoping to file cheap mass-lawsuits against alleged pirates. Rejecting all but one Doe for such a lawsuit, Rose's order mentions that the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate the five Does in the case were a part of the same 'transaction' needed to be tried together, with an uncommon understanding of BitTorrent showing that '... even in all five cases where Doe defendants allegedly have "hit dates" on the same day and close in time, there is no showing that the earlier defendants were still connected to the Internet and actively distributing data through the BitTorrent client at the same time as the later defendants.'"

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Well thats a first (5, Insightful)

MCROnline (1027312) | about 6 months ago | (#46119481)

All we need now is prosecutions based on real losses and not imaginary figures pulled out the air by lawyers.

Re:Well thats a first (4, Insightful)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about 6 months ago | (#46119519)

If only they pulled them out of the air. They actually pull them out of their asses.

Re:Well thats a first (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119537)

Hmmm, so that's why the figures are so large.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 6 months ago | (#46122617)

Aye, those 'suits make them look fat.

Re:Well thats a first (3, Funny)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 6 months ago | (#46119691)

If only they pulled them out of the air. They actually pull them out of their asses.

After all this time, you'd think they'd need a new ass.

Re:Well thats a first (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 6 months ago | (#46120153)

Maybe this will be the judge to finally rip them a new one.

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46120381)

If only they pulled them out of the air. They actually pull them out of their asses.

After all this time, you'd think they'd need a new ass.

I never knew the goatse guy was a judge, learn something new every day..

Re:Well thats a first (1)

morgauxo (974071) | about 6 months ago | (#46121373)

He's not. He's a lawyer. Read it again!

Re:Well thats a first (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 6 months ago | (#46122657)

No, they have a body that can really take that kind of punishment. Every once in awhile someone on here links to a pictures of their asshole demonstrating (except they never tell us they're linking to it for some reason).

Re:Well thats a first (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46122991)

They make an ass of the law then they pull numbers out of it.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119523)

These aren't "prosecutions"; they're lawsuits. Civil, that is.
And the law allows for statutory damages. The copyright holder doesn't have to show any "real losses".

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about 6 months ago | (#46119567)

Wiktionary [wiktionary.org] disagrees with your suggestion in the terminology. But, it's not like anyone really gives a shit about this pedantry.

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119683)

Um, not to be pedantic, but I give a shit about pedantry you insensitive clod!

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46120105)

Wiktionary [wiktionary.org] disagrees with your suggestion in the terminology.

Fixed.

By the way, to understand legal terms, you might try a legal dictionary. Perhpas this one, if you insist on only using stuff that's online and free: thelawdictionary.org/prosecution/ [thelawdictionary.org]

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 6 months ago | (#46120597)

Wiktionary [wiktionary.org] disagrees with your suggestion in the terminology.

Fixed.

By the way, to understand legal terms, you might try a legal dictionary. Perhpas this one, if you insist on only using stuff that's online and free: thelawdictionary.org/prosecution/ [thelawdictionary.org]

Because ones you pay for are better. That is why government is so expensive.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about 6 months ago | (#46120671)

I don't insist, but prefer on-line and free and yes I understand the risks therein. I concede your point, not being an attorney myself, but I would think that the distinction in this word is not really useful. Why is it important to say that you can prosecute a criminal case, but not a civil one? I don't present this as counter-evidence, but the first link on searching for "civil prosecution" brings up some LA community college [citruscollege.edu] using it.

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46120787)

I'm the original pedant here. My reason for jumping on the word "prosecutions" is the way copyright holders so often try to conflate copyright infringement with theft or another crime. But ordinary copyright infringement, of the kind we're discussing here, is not a crime.
People aren't and can't be prosecuted for just torrenting a file like this. They can't get a fine, jail time, or any criminal record. They can only be sued.

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46121291)

> Why is it important to say that you can prosecute a criminal case, but not a civil one?

Prosection assumes a priori knowledge that the claim is legal. Civil suits include a finding if the claim is legal. I can sue you for being an insensitive clod. I cannot prosecute you for being an insensitive clod...yet.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | about 6 months ago | (#46122423)

LOL - Good one. I will concede that on this I'm an ignorant clod. :-)

Re:Well thats a first (1)

hummassa (157160) | about 6 months ago | (#46119535)

Like zero?

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Yew2 (1560829) | about 6 months ago | (#46119551)

Yea - wasnt it found that many/most pirates are among the most profitable consumers of the very material they share? I know for my part I already somehow paid for the bulk of anything i piratdid back in the day (harf) and still spend tons of money on IP.

Real damages.. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119963)

Well In theory damages would be limited to (data uploaded) / (File Size) * $1.29 * 0.70 at most.

However when you consider that the common bit torrent user likely doesn't seed files long enough to even reach 1:1 ratio... well the lawsuits aren't particularly economical that way.

Instead they prefer to pursue each user as if they alone are solely responsible for uploading to the entire swarm!

Re:Real damages.. (1)

q4Fry (1322209) | about 6 months ago | (#46121451)

Mod parent +1 Math

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119657)

Another thing that should be considered is that the average seed ratio for all users of a torrent is (N)/(N+1) where N is the number of peers.
That is, if no seed ratio data of the defendant is brought to the court then one should assume that the loss of income is somewhere between the profit margin for one and two items.

Re:Well thats a first (4, Interesting)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 6 months ago | (#46119693)

The interesting thing is that there are no real losses in the case of bit-torrent, because the projections of losses are based on counterfactuals (if x had not downloaded y then...), i.e. possible worlds that are not the actual one. As long as the ontological status of possible worlds is not settled, the reality of the losses is not settled, and so being prosecuted for torrenting based on the supposed losses you have caused someone is no different from being prosecuted for imagined murder, or imaginary pickpocketing.

If David Lewis were still alive the RIAA/MPAA would be writing him such a massive fucking research grant cheque right now.

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46120529)

The interesting thing is that there are no real losses in the case of bit-torrent, because the projections of losses are based on counterfactuals (if x had not downloaded y then...), i.e. possible worlds that are not the actual one. As long as the ontological status of possible worlds is not settled, the reality of the losses is not settled, and so being prosecuted for torrenting based on the supposed losses you have caused someone is no different from being prosecuted for imagined murder, or imaginary pickpocketing.

If David Lewis were still alive the RIAA/MPAA would be writing him such a massive fucking research grant cheque right now.

Just like when a corporation recklessly kills someone and their heirs get "compensation" based on their earning potential. Total Bullshit. The ontological status of their potential is a counterfactual. QED

Re:Well thats a first (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 6 months ago | (#46120629)

And this is why statutory damages are usually sought.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46123335)

Statutory damages are supposed to be a reasonably likely figure to be used as a sort of judicial shortcut. Unfortunately, in these cases they are nothing of the sort. Of course, the statutory values were originally intended to be for cases of commercial violation where someone is selling bootleg copies for profit. The many X vs a bunch of downloaders are abusing the statutory value and the courts are letting them.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

sjames (1099) | about 6 months ago | (#46123267)

There is some validity in computing probable losses based on well supported evidence. The problem is in the entirely unrealistic figures that are being used to justify the statutory values.

Those include assuming that the torrent user actually provided the data they downloaded to everyone else who ever downloaded the torrent. They compound it by assuming that 100% of the people who bothered to download it for free would have otherwise bought it at full retail price.

In fact, a more fair assessment would be that the torrent user's ratio was at most 2:1 and that no more than 50% of the downloaders would have otherwise paid for it (and most of those would have gone for the $0.99 download, not the retail CD). So that leaves actual damages in the neighborhood of $1.50/download. Assuming the usual standard of treble damages for willful acts, $4.50/download is about right for the RIAA. For MPAA, recording off of pay-per-view is the reasonable alternative, so it would be about $22/download all included.

Re:Well thats a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46123661)

If the courts just billed us for 1.50$ per song we downloaded, we probably would make the courts and the RIAA rich. TBH we are already taxed and the internet is owned by taxpayers and has been sold/rented to private companies (in theory).

We should be getting this service for free instead of wasting it on the NSA witchhunts. And should be able to distribute whatever we want on it, however we see fit, without interference.

In a just and fair world.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Missing.Matter (1845576) | about 6 months ago | (#46119817)

Actually it's not a first. The key word you're looking for here is "severed", which is what the judge did for the joined plaintiffs. If you want to read more on this, here are some places to start: http://fightcopyrighttrolls.co... [fightcopyrighttrolls.com] http://dietrolldie.com/?s=seve... [dietrolldie.com]

Basically, this has happened in the past, and while it changes the cost/benefit ratio it has done nothing to stop these trolls. Now they're starting to target people more discriminatingly. While that's better than the shotgun approach they've been taking, now they're suing one downloader for much higher sums, sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Re:Well thats a first (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 6 months ago | (#46121775)

Your Honor, my client has suffered major losses in paying me to pursue these theives. These people should have to cover the real losses of my exorbitant fees.

Looking at this another way... (4, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | about 6 months ago | (#46119505)

This judge just assured himself and his lawyer friends of income for the rest of their lives...

Re:Looking at this another way... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119589)

While I have a well earned disdain for lawyers, I see nothing wrong with having 4 lawyers and a judge entangled in a meaningless duel until they all die.

From the specifics of this story, I do want the defense attorneys to win the vast majority of similar cases, but anything that keeps more of the feral lawyer population away from defenseless civilians is a good thing in my mind. My apologies to those who will be caught up as defendants in this nonsense, but remember that your suffering in the company of these creatures is time that they won't be threatening others with their cancerous philosophy.

Re:Looking at this another way... (4, Funny)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 6 months ago | (#46119733)

While I have a well earned disdain for lawyers, I see nothing wrong with having 4 lawyers and a judge entangled in a meaningless duel until they all die.

From the specifics of this story, I do want the defense attorneys to win the vast majority of similar cases, but anything that keeps more of the feral lawyer population away from defenseless civilians is a good thing in my mind. My apologies to those who will be caught up as defendants in this nonsense, but remember that your suffering in the company of these creatures is time that they won't be threatening others with their cancerous philosophy.

Oh, sure, it's quite comfy under this bus. Come join us.

Re:Looking at this another way... (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 months ago | (#46120707)

Lawyers can argue all they want amongst themselves in their own offices. But Judges are paid for using tax dollars as are the court rooms, so I'd rather not have the judges using their time on cases with no merit.

Re:Looking at this another way... (4, Funny)

Warbothong (905464) | about 6 months ago | (#46119773)

This judge just assured himself and his lawyer friends of income for the rest of their lives...

Since the summary specifically says 'Federal Judge Stephanie Rose', are you assuming the first payments will be going towards gender-reassignment surgery?

Re:Looking at this another way... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46120151)

you don't have to be a cunt about it

Re:Looking at this another way... (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 6 months ago | (#46120667)

are you assuming the first payments will be going towards gender-reassignment surgery?

Hell no! Isn't the State responsible to pay for that surgery? After all it is a right to be happy all the time for free is it not?

Re:Looking at this another way... (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 6 months ago | (#46122931)

Federal judges get lifetime appointments. Apparently neither you nor the people who modded your post have taken 12 grade Social Studies yet.

Re:Looking at this another way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46127691)

They _can_ lose their jobs, you know...

Re:Looking at this another way... (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | about 6 months ago | (#46141473)

In reality, they have to be convicted of a crime to lose their jobs.

Seems right (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 6 months ago | (#46119529)

I don't see any other outcome as reasonable. The one catch is going to be that I'm not sure that this will apply to judicial circuits.

Court Locator [uscourts.gov] - Shows court boundaries.

How painful this is for the plaintiff... (5, Informative)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 6 months ago | (#46119707)

If you read the actual story, one out of 100 John Doe's in 5 cases complained to the court that they wanted a separate trial. The plaintiff then dismissed the case against that person with prejudice (in other words, gave up any chance to ever sue them again) to avoid the separate trial. Didn't work. The judge took it on himself to look at the complaint, even though John Doe wasn't part of the case anymore, applied it to all five cases not just the one that included John Doe, and now there are five cases against five John Does, and the plaintiff would have to open another 94 cases if they want to proceed. Which means paying about 20 more money for lawyers etc. Suddenly it's not a way to make money anymore.

Re:How painful this is for the plaintiff... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46119783)

Considering how insane the judgements have been, it's still profitable--provided they can collect.

Re:How painful this is for the plaintiff... (1)

chihowa (366380) | about 6 months ago | (#46120863)

Interestingly, it does suggest a strategy to deter litigation if you are ever caught up in one of these cases or to crumble the plaintiff's whole scheme if the defendants could all coordinate.

Re:How painful this is for the plaintiff... (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | about 6 months ago | (#46121227)

Interestingly, it does suggest a strategy to deter litigation if you are ever caught up in one of these cases or to crumble the plaintiff's whole scheme if the defendants could all coordinate.

The defendants can't coordinate, because they are all John Does. Nobody knows who the defendants actually are. Including the defendants. If _you_ are a defendant, then you can increase the cost of suing you by insisting that you are not part of a group.

Re:How painful this is for the plaintiff... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46123817)

The best way to deter litigation if you get one of those shotgun letters attempting to get you to willingly identify yourself so they can ruin your life is to put it in the shredder.

Re:How painful this is for the plaintiff... (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 6 months ago | (#46122227)

Which means paying about 20 more money for lawyers etc. Suddenly it's not a way to make money anymore.

Well it just means it is far more expensive. Also it means much more revenue for the court system. At the bare minimum, each trial means a separate filing fee. This means instead of a few hundred dollars to the court, the court gets tens of thousands of dollars. Some might see this as a greedy motive but the filing fee helps defray the costs that taxpayers must fund. A court hearing 100 cases should get 100 filing fees to help pay for the administration of the court system.

Re:How painful this is for the plaintiff... (2)

complete loony (663508) | about 6 months ago | (#46125421)

And all because their traffic capture only logged the start time of each torrent download. So obviously in future they will try to log the end time as well so they can charge everyone who was downloading at the same time.

That's a relief. (3, Funny)

grub (11606) | about 6 months ago | (#46119933)


I was really wanting to get more Linux ISOs for my collection!

good but ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46120175)

we need to anonymize this internet thingy more.

Might not be the best way forward (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 6 months ago | (#46120437)

I think that at least one judge has suggested that, if there are many defendents in one case, then the plaintiffs can only ask for each defendant to pay his or her proportion of the damages (in other words, some fraction of $140,000 if the maximum is applied). That might be better for an individual.

Re:Might not be the best way forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46121851)

There are no damages. Also, one person per case; anything else is unjust.

Re:Might not be the best way forward (3, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 6 months ago | (#46121853)

That $140,000 is per instance of copyright infringement. Even though they are lumping the cases together, they are still claiming that each John Doe engaged in at least one instance of copyright infringement.

What this does do is increase the costs of the person suing for copyright infringement. Before they needed to file one case against 100 John Does, argue their case, collect the 100 names, and then send the "settle or else" threat letters. If this ruling gets applied to all cases, they will need to file 100 different cases - each against 1 John Doe. In each case, they will need to present evidence to get the name and then send their settlement letters. The costs involved just skyrocketed to the point that suing people for non-commercial file sharing (as opposed to, say, selling movies to people online when you don't have the permission to) will be a money-losing proposition.

Re:Might not be the best way forward (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 6 months ago | (#46122203)

That $140,000 is per instance of copyright infringement. Even though they are lumping the cases together, they are still claiming that each John Doe engaged in at least one instance of copyright infringement.

And at least one judge ( in a Prenda case, I think) has said that the plaintiffs can't claim that they are all part of the same infringement for the purposes of joining all the defendants to a single case, and then claim that each person seperately committed the purported copyright infringement for the purposes of assessing damages.

Does it matter if the costs go up 100-fold or the potential damage award goes down 100-fold? It still makes the process too expensive for the plaintiffs.

Re:Might not be the best way forward (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 6 months ago | (#46122341)

That $140,000 is per instance of copyright infringement.

Assuming that you're talking about the $150,000 maximum on statutory damages for copyright infringement, no, you're wrong.

Statutory damages are calculated per work, not per infringement. The number of infringements might perhaps have some bearing on the amount of damages which is just, between the minimum and maximum. But there is only one award, no matter how many separate infringements of that work there are, at least in the same case.

The relevant statute is 17 USC 504(c)(1) [cornell.edu] .

This issue is raised again and again in these case (1)

cshay (79326) | about 6 months ago | (#46122339)

In a huge amount of these cases, the issue of whether the members should be sued individually comes up again and again.

Seemingly, each judge seems to make their own decision on this. In the cases where the judge rules that they should be split up, the case is dropped. Then rinse and repeat with a new judge and new set of defendants.

After 3-4 years of this, hasn't there been a precedent or something or higher level court getting involved so that all these judges don't have to reconsider the same argument over and over again? Seems wasteful, and it keeps these idiots in business.

 

Re:This issue is raised again and again in these c (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 6 months ago | (#46126677)

After 3-4 years of this, hasn't there been a precedent or something or higher level court getting involved so that all these judges don't have to reconsider the same argument over and over again?

No... and there won't be a precedent, until the RIAA finds a judge willing to solidify the precedent that is favorable to them.

Stupid Reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46123243)

even if all 5 defendents were uploading/downloading at the same time, why would you try them together as one entity if they were each acting alone as individuals. makes no sense. if you rob a bank in City A and three other people each rob a bank in three different cities, why would you try them together?

when you download with bittorrent, the bits you get are coming from various sources.

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