Ingenuity 13 v. John Doe, Case No. 2:12-CV-8333, Slip Op. (C.D. Cal. May 6, 2013)
The principals of Prenda Law, a Chicago law firm, were sanctioned by Judge Otis Wright of the Central District of California. The opinion literally overflows with fury. The particulars of the sanctions have been covered in depth in numerous sources – see Wired, PopeHat, Die Troll Die, and Fight Copyright Trolls – and I do not cover those sanctions here. Rather, this article attempts to cover what Judge Wright’s opinion might mean for future mass copyright cases.
In particular, Judge Wright attacked the entire model used by mass copyright plaintiffs. First, the Court noted that Prenda did not conduct a sufficient investigation before filing its suit. Specifically, the Court noted that Prenda’s investigators only noted the presence of a particular IP address in a torrent swarm, and did not produce evidence that the IP address actually downloaded any of the particular file (and therefore, could not observe that enough of the file to view any part of the video). In addition, the Court seemed to appreciate the argument that identifying the IP address did not identify the specific person. Finally, the Court observed that it cannot be profitable to prosecute the illegal download of a single video.
This seems to suggest that a copyright plaintiff should not file an infringement suit unless and until the copyright plaintiff can identify, by name, the actual infringer. This is extraordinarily difficult, and, in most cases, impossible for a typical torrent case. Most courts have taken the opposite position. See, for example, First Time Videos v. Does 1-76, Case No. 11-CV-3831, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug 16, 2011). Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that this case will be raised in many motions to dismiss filed in the future. And, if Judge Wright’s views are adopted, it will have a profound impact on how mass copyright cases are litigated.