Mass Peer-to-Peer Copyright Enforcement suits being severed by Michigan District Court Judges

The basic premise for peer-to-peer (P2P) copyright enforcement suits is well documented across the internet. An enforcement company or law firm collects a few hundred people who have downloaded a file containing copyrighted content, often porn, and files a suit in federal court against the downloaders as John Does. The P2P lawyer then subpoenas the internet providers for the identities of the John Does based on the IP addresses of the downloaders. Demand letters are sent and about 5% of the recipients settle the claim right away, lest they be publicly outed as a porn thief in federal court. If they do not settle, they are named and sued in federal court. About 20-30% of the John Does settle for an average of $2,000.

These P2P cases against John Does made up a majority of the copyright filings in Michigan’s federal courts last month. Combined with the flood of documents being filed, sometimes from people not involved in the case who just want to be involved in the “fight”, federal judges have lost all patience for these types of suits. Rather than allowing a plaintiff to file one case against hundreds of defendants, many federal judges are severing the case. This increases filing costs from $350 for one complaint to $350 each – easily thousands of dollars.

A recent example of a Western District of Michigan judge severing the Doe defendants, along with a good explanation of the process, is Patrick Collins, Inc. v. John Does 1-15, 1:12-CV-618, issued by Judge Robert J. Jonker on August 13, 2012.

However, these cases continue to be filed. If you’ve been accused of illegally pirating software, music, games or movies, the most important tip of all may be to get help from a copyright lawyer who can analyze your particular circumstances, legal options, and legal defenses.

Categories: Litigation