Strike 3 Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, subscriber assigned IP address 22.214.171.124, No. 18-1425 (D. D.C.) November 16, 2018.
Pornography may be protected by copyright, and when online consumers unlawfully share materials with others, litigation ensues. As initially online infringers may only be identified by internet protocol addresses, plaintiffs such as Strike 3 often seek pre-discovery conference subpoenas to internet service providers to obtain names of defendants. The potential defendants are often granted permission to move to quash anonymously.
Infringement cases are dismissed if no one is identified, but if someone is identified, settlement is much to be preferred than having one’s name crop up in connection with the infringed product on internet searches.
These procedures permit plaintiffs to assert their rights and defendants to retain their privacy, yet a federal judge in the District of Columbia has just put the kibosh on fuzzy identification and on flooding the court’s dockets with hundreds of claims.
More than a suggestion that unmasking a particular internet address will lead to discovery of a defendant amenable to suit must be shown for a pre-discovery subpoena to issue, the court has held. The court could not find that plaintiff had provided any facts or persuasive argument that would merit encroachment on the potential defendant’s privacy rights.
The court noted that it remains open to requests for subpoenas where sufficient specificity can be shown.