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Judge shields masses of porn downloaders from copyright infringement suits

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

EDITORIAL : Nearly 10,000 anonymous wrist-flick fans got a “get out of illegal downloading free” card when a federal judge tossed complaints brought by a group of porn producers trying to crack down on copyright infringement by filing single lawsuits against large numbers of individual BitTorrent pirates.

West Coast Productions, which brought you straight-to-DVD sub-classics as “Phat Azz White Girls 6,” “Chasing The Big Ones! 2,” and “Ghetto Booty,” hired the Adult Copyright Company to try and ream 9,700 defendants in one suit alone for pirating their “Teen Anal Nighmare 2” — starring, among others, Wesley Pipes, Ice Cold and Carla Cox.

ACC already had brought other suits naming an additional 11,000 or so defendants.

But the chief federal judge in Wheeling, W. Va., wasn’t about to cluster  ’em. He rubbed all of the lists out of court, blocking the broad-stroke approach and sending the ACC back to the storyboards.

Now, tens of thousands of defendants identified as “John Doe” — because the producers don’t know who they are — won‘t have to worry about ponying up the average $1,500 fine for illegally downloading from BitTorrent.

In a nutsack, U.S. District Court Judge John Preston Bailey said so many defendants can’t belong to the same class because they obviously didn’t work together. All they did was use similar software and show an interest in similar flicks, he said.

Each will likely have a different defense, the judge added. Maybe one guy’s kid used dad’s computer when he wasn’t home, while another tapped into his roommate’s PC. A third may be a true pirate, the judge said.

Of all those defendants, one guy was left to fight it out. No one knows who he is, or why he’s so willing to go to the mattresses. But the fearless fist jockey has support from, of all sources, Time Warner Cable, one of 20 ISPs slapped with subpoenas directing them to reveal the names of the alleged infringers based on their IP addresses.

The judge’s order effectively blocked the subpoenas.

His Honor told ACC it could file individual complaints, but only if the defendants are from his West Virginia jurisdiction. Otherwise, they’d have to go to federal courts in other states — not beyond the realm of possibility for the producers, if their pockets are deep enough: It turns out the judge also ordered a separate $350 filing fee for each complaint.

Considering the size of the original bank of names, that’s quite a wad to swallow (Quick math: $1.8 million).

Now, I understand fair and equitable treatment for all, under the law. But this kind of revolving lawn-sprinkler approach didn’t work for the record companies — something Judge Bailey actually pointed out. Fat chance it’s going to arouse support for the porn purveyors.

No word yet on whether West Coast Productions plans to complete the teen trilogy. If they learned anything from the “Godfather” series, they’ll quit while they’re …. um …. you know.

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