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Monday, February 28, 2011

Over 40,000 Does Dismissed In Copyright Troll Cases | Electronic Frontier Foundation

February 24th, 2011
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Over 40,000 Does Dismissed In Copyright Troll Cases

These have been some eventful weeks in the world of copyright trolling. Thousands of unnamed “John Does” in P2P file sharing lawsuits filed in California, Washington DC, Texas, and West Virginia have been severed, effectively dismissing over 40,000 defendants. The plaintiffs in these cases must now re-file against almost all of the Does individually rather than suing them en mass. These rulings may have a significant impact on the copyright trolls’ business model, which relies on being able to sue thousands of Does at once with a minimum of administrative expense. The cost of filing suit against each Doe may prove prohibitively expensive to plaintiffs’ attorneys who are primarily interested in extracting quick, low-hassle settlements.

However, EFF has received reports that some Does are still receiving notices from their ISP’s informing them that their identities are being sought in relation to these cases. If you receive a notice from your ISP informing you that it has received a subpoena requesting your subscriber information in connection with one of the cases in the spreadsheet attached below, please contact EFF immediately by emailing

Attachment Size
spreadsheet-dismissed-110224.xls 28 KB

Related Issues: Copyright TrollsIntellectual PropertyPrivacy


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Copyright Trolls

When the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) declared an end to its litigation campaign against music fans who used peer-to-peer technology to share music, many people thought that would be the end of mass copyright litigation — after all, hadn’t the RIAA demonstrated that suing customers was no way to improve the bottom line?

Apparently, not everyone got the memo. In the past year, at least three groups have begun to experiment with using mass copyright litigation to extract settlements from individuals. These copyright trolls try to grow businesses out of suing Internet users — their tactics include targeting large groups of anonymous "Doe defendants," improperly minimizing their court costs, and exploiting the massive damages in copyright law in order to pressure defendants into settling quickly.

EFF is working hard to help victims get access to the resources they need to defend their rights, call the court's attention to trolls' disrespect for due process, and educate the public about the harms of copyright trolling.

U.S. Copyright Group

Have you been targeted by a USCG subpoena? Learn more about the claims made against you, explore possible defenses, and try to find legal counsel.

The U.S. Copyright Group (USCG) approaches independent film producers and offers to collect money from people who are illegally downloading their movies on BitTorrent. USCG currently represents the producers of several films, including The Hurt Locker and Far Cry. USCG then files predatory lawsuits implicating thousands of unnamed John Does, subpoenas their identities from the ISP's, and then sues the individuals themselves. Once the user's identity is known, USCG threatens a judgment of up to $150,000 per downloaded movie — the maximum penalty allowable by law in copyright suits and a very unlikely judgment in cases arising from a single, noncommercial infringement — in order to pressure the alleged infringers to settle quickly for $1,500 to $2,500 per person. The judge in two of USCG's cases has dismissed many of the defendants, though thousands more remain.


If you are the target for a Righthaven lawsuit in need of representation, please contact Rebecca Reagan at Please understand that we have a relatively small number of very hard-working attorneys, so we do not have the resources to defend everyone who asks, no matter how deserving. However, if we cannot represent you directly, we will make every effort to put you in touch with attorneys who can.

Righthaven LLC, has brought over a hundred lawsuits in a Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement. They find cases by searching the Internet for parts of newspaper stories posted online by individuals, nonprofits, political organizations, and others; buying the copyright to that newspaper story; and then suing the operator of the website for copyright infringement. Like the U.S. Copyright Group, Righthaven relies on the threat of copyright liability (and in a unique twist, an entirely bogus threat of loss of the target’s domain name) to scare the posters into a quick settlement. Reported settlements have fallen between $2,000 and $3,000.

Porn Downloading Lawsuits

In these cases, the owners of the adult movies filed mass lawsuits based on single counts of copyright infringement stemming from the downloading of a pornographic film, and improperly lumped hundreds of defendants together regardless of where the IP addresses indicate the defendants live. To date, over 50,000 Does have been targeted in cases filed in West Virginia, Texas, Illinois, and the Northern District of California. The motivation behind these cases appears to be to leverage the risk of embarrassment associated with pornography to coerce settlement payments despite serious problems with the underlying claims. The judge in several of the cases filed in West Virginia has blocked plaintiffs from proceeding against almost all of the defendants in those cases-- approximately 5400 people. Unfortunately, thousands of defendants in other cases are still under threat.

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The notice should be sent to our designated agent, Corynne McSherry, via email ( or fax (415-436-9993).

We may display a copy of your DMCA notice in place of the removed content.

Note: Under Section 512(f) of the DMCA, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing may be subject to liability for damages. One company that sent an infringement notification seeking removal of online materials that were protected by the fair use doctrine was ordered to pay such costs and attorneys fees under this provision. See In addition, “in order for a copyright owner to proceed under the DMCA with “a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law,” the owner must evaluate whether the material makes fair use of the copyright.” Lenz v. Universal, 572 F. Supp. 2d 1150, 1155 (2008)

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If you believe material you posted to EFF’s site was not infringing, you can submit a counter-notice. If you need assistance in determining whether the material was not infringing, please contact our Intake Coordinator (via email at, who may be able to help you find an independent attorney to evaluate your situation.

A counter-notification must include the following:

  • Identification of the specific URLs of material that EFF has removed or to which EFF has disabled access.
  • Your full name, address, telephone number, and email address.
  • The statement: "I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the district in which my address is located, or if my address is outside of the United States, the judicial district in which EFF is located, and will accept service of process from the claimant." EFF is located in the Northern District of California.
  • The statement: "I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled."

A scanned physical signature or a valid electronic signature is fine.

Please send your counter-notice to Corynne McSherry, via email ( or fax (415-436-9993)

Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability.

After we receive your counter-notification, we will forward it to the party who submitted the original claim of copyright infringement. Please note that when we forward the counter-notification, it includes your personal information. If you are concerned about protecting your anonymity, please consult with an attorney about other options.

After we send out the counter-notification, the claimant must then notify us within 10 business days that the claimant has filed an action seeking a court order to restrain you from engaging in infringing activity relating to the material on EFF’s site. If we receive such notification we will be unable to restore the material. If we do not receive such notification, generally we will reinstate the material.

Please also be advised that in appropriate circumstances we terminate repeat infringers.

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