Mass anti-piracy litigation dismissed, no longer welcome in TX

Evan Stone, one of the main prosecuting attorneys of mass peer-to-peer copyright infringement lawsuits in the United States has been smacked down by a senior Texas judge, who has made it clear that his courtroom will not tolerate these types of cases.

Last week, senior US District Judge Royal Ferguson went through 13 of the 16 mass file sharing cases initiated by Stone in the Northern District of Texas, “severing” hundreds of John Doe defendants and quashing all of the related subpoenas to gather the Doe’s personal information from internet providers. Those cases now only have one anonymous defendant named for each case.

According to a report by Ars Technica this week, Judge Ferguson even showed mercy toward defendants who were considered to be in default of a court order because they had not shown up for a hearing.

Ferguson’s justification for his dramatic slashing of Stone’s cases was that the mutual use of BitTorrent was not a strong enough basis to join the defendants.

“There are no allegations in Plaintiff’s Complaint that the Defendants are in any way related to each other, or that they acted in concert or as a group in their allegedly infringing actions,” Judge Ferguson explained in his ruling. “Indeed, it seems that the copyright infringement claim against each Defendant is based on the individual acts of each Defendant.”

Any attempts by Stone to re-file his cases must include an individual complaint against each Doe defendant, which means a great deal of paperwork plus a $350 filing fee per defendant.

“Kudos to Judge Furgeson for refusing to allow the plaintiffs to bypass basic due process rights and helping to ensure the judicial process is fair for everyone involved,” writes Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF). The digital rights group has begun pursuing sanctions against Stone related to the mass P2P lawsuits after he had issued subpoenas to internet service providers without the judge’s permission.

This is another victory against this type of mass anti-piracy litigation, after thousands of defendants were dismissed from the Washington D.C. District Court in December, and hundreds of defendants accused of sharing a pornographic film were dismissed from a New York District Court last month.